He legally purchased a high-powered rifle, disguised himself in women’s clothing and climbed to a rooftop, where police say the assailant opened fire on a Fourth of July parade in a wealthy Chicago suburb, killing six and wounding dozens.
But what motivated the assailant to allegedly spend weeks planning the latest U.S. mass shooting remains a puzzle to investigators and a community reeling from the attack.
“We have not developed a motive from him,” said Deputy Chief Christopher Covelli of the Lake County sheriff’s office, adding that there were no apparent signs that the attack was motivated by race or religion.
The investigation continues a day after police arrested Robert “Bobby” Crimo III, 21, who became the subject of a massive search in the hours following the shooting. Crimo hasn’t been charged but authorities said they were working with prosecutors. He was arrested “without incident” following a short chase about five miles from the shooting roughly eight hours later.
Asked if the suspect was known to law enforcement beforehand, Covelli said “there have been some law enforcement contacts, nothing of a violent nature. I can’t get into the specifics.”
Crimo apparently tried to enter a nearby synagogue in April, said Rabbi Yosef Schanowitz, co-director of the North Suburban Lubavitch Chabad – Central Avenue Synagogue. Schanowitz on Tuesday told USA TODAY that authorities had asked him not to speak about the specifics but confirmed that Crimo was asked to leave shortly after entering during Passover services. Like many synagogues, the Central Avenue Synagogue is guarded by armed security during services, Schanowitz said.
Crimo is a local resident whose father, Robert Crimo Jr., 58, owned the nearby restaurant Bob’s Pantry & Deli, records show. Crimo Jr. also ran for mayor of Highland Park in 2019. Election records in Lake County, Illinois, show he lost to the current mayor, who won 72% of the votes.
WHERE IS HIGHLAND PARK? What we know about Chicago suburb grieving after parade shooting.
Police recover two rifles owned by Crimo
The rifle recovered from the shooting scene was “similar to an AR-15” using high-velocity rounds and did not appear to be modified, Covelli said.
Crimo had purchased two rifles legally from different locations and in his name in the Chicagoland area, Covelli said. One was found at the scene and a second one was in his car. Other legally-purchased firearms were recovered from his residence.
The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives undertook an expedited effort to trace the weapon and determine the details of its sale, said Kimberly Nerheim, a Chicago spokeswoman for the agency.
It appeared Crimo had been planning the attack for several weeks before firing more than 70 rounds into the crowd, Covelli said, explaining that afterward he blended in with the crowd and walked to his mother’s home to borrow her vehicle.
“By all indications, it appears Crimo was acting by himself,” Covelli said Tuesday.
Crimo’s uncle, Paul Crimo, told Fox 32, said he’d just seen his nephew the day before in the home that he shared with his brother. The suspect lived in a separate apartment and Paul Crimo said he did not know where he obtained a weapon.
Suspect is a rapper with large online footprint
The suspect is a rapper and artist who did not have a job but previously worked at Panera Bread, Paul Crimo said. “He’s a real quiet kid. Keeps everything to himself” and was often at his computer. “I’m deeply heartbroken,” he added. USA TODAY could not immediately reach Paul Crimo for comment.
The suspect performed under the name “Awake the Rapper” and posted on YouTube and other platforms multiple videos of violent images, including a man with a rifle shooting people. Another video he posted showed a cartoon character carrying a rifle and facedown in a pool of blood, surrounded by police officers.
Crimo also posted a picture of a newspaper clipping on his bedroom wall referencing the death of Lee Harvey Oswald, who assassinated President John F. Kennedy with a rifle from an elevated location. Authorities say the Highland Park shooter fired down upon July Fourth festivities from the rooftop of a building.
Crimo’s large online footprint — primarily videos — can provide some insight into his motivation, said Kesa White, a program research associate at the American University Polarization and Extremism Research and Innovation Lab.
White studies, in part, how people become radicalized online. She said his videos suggest that he wanted to be “seen” by others, in the same way that his facial tattoos signal his desire to be noticed and stand out.
“In his postings across all social media platforms, he definitely showcased his willingness to commit violence more than we normally see, because he was very explicit about it,” White told USA TODAY. “Many shooters have online profiles but aren’t as explicit or show themselves at political events as we’re seeing with this shooter.”
White is not associated with the investigation.
Bennett Brizes posted on Twitter that he made music with Crimo between 2015 and 2018 and suggested that he wasn’t a political person at least at the time. He spoke with the Washington Post, saying that the two grew apart and stopped talking around 2019, and when they spoke early last year Crimo seemed “depressed.”
USA TODAY was unable to reach Brizes through email and social media.
Violent videos connected to Crimo removed from YouTube after shooting
Violent videos that appear to be connected to Crimo were removed from YouTube in the hours after the shooting. The account posting the videos was suspended, but YouTube did not immediately return USA TODAY’s request for comment.
In a video for the Awake the Rapper song “Out of This World,” drawings depict a gunman wearing a tactical vest and carrying a semi-automatic rifle, bodies on the ground around him. As he aims, a faceless figure raises its hands in surrender. The gunman wears a helmet, with what appears to be a Go-Pro style camera attached. Other images of seemingly anguished characters appear as the voice raps, “I just want to scream. Sometimes it feels like I’m living a dream.”
Asked at a news conference by a reporter about struggles during his youth, Covelli said, “We’re going to reach out to everybody we possibly can … whether that is family members, teachers, friends,” he said.
Chris Kenning is a national news writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @chris_kenning.