Wearing a blue prison outfit and a blue mask, the alleged gunman behind a mass shooting at Highland Park's Fourth of July Parade that took the lives of seven people and injured more than 40 entered a plea of not guilty during an arraignment hearing at 11 a.m. Wednesday at the Lake County Courthouse in Waukegan.
The suspect, who confessed in detail to the shooting after being arrested in North Chicago nearly four hours after the attack, waived a formal reading of the more than 100 counts against him.
Robert Crimo III, 21, who is being represented by a public defender, currently faces 117 counts in all, including 21 counts of first-degree murder — three counts for each victim killed in the shooting, according to the Lake County State's Attorney's office.
He also faces 48 counts of attempted murder and 48 counts of aggravated battery with a firearm "for each victim who was struck by a bullet, bullet fragment, or shrapnel," prosecutors said.
Feeling out of the loop? We'll catch you up on the Chicago news you need to know. Sign up for the weekly Chicago Catch-Up newsletter here.
If convicted on the charges of first-degree murder, the suspect faces life in prison without parole. According to prosecutors, an additional 25 years would be added if he is convicted of discharging a weapon, which would be served consecutively.
His next court date is scheduled for Nov. 1.
The alleged gunman is suspected of climbing a fire escape at a business along the suburban Chicago parade route and firing more than 70 times from the rooftop with a high-powered, assault-style rifle, taking the lives of Katherine Goldstein, 64; Irina McCarthy, 35; Kevin McCarthy, 37; Stephen Strauss, 88; Jacquelyn Sundheim, 63; Nicolas Toledo-Zaragoza, 78; and Eduardo Uvaldo, 69.
The shooting left 2-year-old Aiden McCarthy orphaned and injured more than 40 others, including leaving an 8-year-old boy, Cooper Roberts, paralyzed from the waist down after a bullet struck him in the abdomen and severed his spinal cord.
Lake County Major Crimes Task Force spokesman Sgt. Christopher Covelli said the suspect had legally purchased a high-powered rifle, and is believed to have planned the attack for several weeks.
"We do believe [the suspect] pre-planned this attack for several weeks," Covelli said. "He brought a high-powered rifle to this parade, he accessed the roof of a business via a fire escape ladder and began opening fire on the innocent Independence Day celebration goers."
Authorities said a gun found at the scene and another rifle found in the vehicle he was driving at the time he was arrested were registered in his name and legally purchased, but a motive for the shooting remains unclear.
The shooting happened less than three years after police went to the suspect's home following a call from a family member who said he was threatening “to kill everyone” there.
At that time, in September 2019, Covelli said police confiscated 16 knives, a dagger and a sword, but said there was no sign he had any guns.
Police in April 2019 also responded to a reported suicide attempt by the suspect, Covelli said.
The suspect legally purchased the rifle used in the attack in Illinois within the past year, Covelli said. In all, police said, he purchased five firearms, which were recovered by officers at his father’s home.
Illinois state police, who issue gun owners’ licenses, said the gunman applied for a license in December 2019, when he was 19. His father, who has now retained legal counsel, sponsored his application.
At the time “there was insufficient basis to establish a clear and present danger” and deny the application, state police said in a statement.
State police say that the suspect passed a series of background checks, and no criminal charges aside from a citation for possession of tobacco by a minor were found on his record.