Highland Park parade shooting

Survivors of Highland Park parade shooting react to suspect's rejection of plea deal

Robert Crimo III rejected a plea agreement on Wednesday

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Raw emotions poured out from survivors of the Highland Park parade shooting just moments after leaving court early Wednesday afternoon after the suspect in the shooting abruptly refused to plea guilty after previously signaling he would do so..

“All I wanted was to be able to fully grieve my mom without the looming trial knowing he was going to spend the rest of his life in jail, but instead we were yet again shown his complete and blatant disregard for humans, for anyone, for all of us in the courtroom,” Leah Sundheim said. 

Sundheim’s mother, Jacki, was killed along with 6 others in the shooting, including Eduardo Uvaldo. She and other families disgusted by the actions of the alleged gunman, Robert Crimo III.

“He is evil, manipulative and brought us here today probably knowing what he was going to do,” Sundheim said.

Karina Mendez said she knew there was a chance that Crimo could change his plea.

“I was hoping for the best that it wouldn’t happen, but I knew he’s been playing a lot of games,” Mendez said.

Ashbey Beasley faced the gunman in court when he rejected the plea deal. She survived the shooting with her then 6-year-old son.

“Enough harm has been done it’s extremely unnerving that anyone can be this cruel,” Beasley said.

Another survivor, Charlie Kleiman, is sharing his story with NBC Chicago nearly two years after the shooting.

“It has been a struggle. There are times I do get flashbacks and I shut down—those are always hard," Kleiman said.

The Highland Park native was diagnosed with PTSD and said he’s doing his best to move forward.

“Last year I was out of town for the Fourth of July and I had a really bad panic attack,” he said. “I’ve been working through it. I’ve worked with a therapist and stuff like that and the hope is this time around it will be a lot smoother.”

He’s now a professional wrestler with the National Wrestling Alliance and credits the sport, his family and friends for supporting him as he continues his journey.

“I’m very fortunate in the fact that I have a lot of people, not only in the Highland Park community, but back at school, my fraternity that do know about this and are willing to help me,” he said.

He knows his community is resilient as they prepare for the weight of the trial next year and for Fourth of July next week.

“All we can hope for is the people who were truly hurt and affected get the justice that they need for closure that they need,” Kleiman said.

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