Police have arrested the suspect in the shooting that left at least six people dead and 26 injured on Monday during a parade near Chicago for the American national holiday of July 4.
The tragedy, in a country still reeling from a recent series of deadly shootings, took place in Highland Park, in the north of the United States.
Armed with a powerful rifle, the young man fired on the crowd gathered in this wealthy suburban town of 30,000 inhabitants, located on the shores of Lake Michigan.
Five people, all adults, died on the spot and a sixth after being transferred to hospital. At least 26 injured, aged 8 to 85, were taken care of by the emergency services and some, including at least one child, were in critical condition, according to a hospital official.
– Strollers and folding chairs –
A few hours later, as the storm began to rumble over Chicago, the scene of the drama was still cordoned off with yellow police tape.
And the city’s main avenue remains frozen in the moments following the shooting.
In their flight, people left behind personal belongings that still litter the sidewalks: children’s bicycles decorated in the colors of the American flag, strollers, folding chairs.
The police had identified a suspect, Robert – known as “Bobby” – Crimo, 22 years old and “from the region”. She had released the photo of a diaphanous young man, with an emaciated and tattooed face.
A spokesman, Christopher Covelli, had warned: the individual was “considered armed and very dangerous”.
After a brief car chase, he was arrested “without incident”, Highland Park Police Chief Lou Jogmen told reporters Monday evening.
The man has several pages on the internet, where he is presented as a Chicago musician nicknamed “Awake the rapper”.
The authorities had deployed a huge security device with armored vehicles and federal reinforcements.
– “Battlefield” –
On this holiday Monday, hundreds of people, including many families with children, took their places on the sidewalks of Highland Park to attend, as in all the United States, the traditional American Independence Day parade.
As high school marching bands marched through the streets, a flurry of gunfire rang out. “We heard about 50 gunshots, we all thought it was fireworks,” a woman who witnessed the tragedy, who only gave her first name, Zoe, commented on CNN.
Describing the “panic, with people falling one after another”, she said she hid behind a trash can before being taken to safety in a basement. On leaving, she discovered “a battlefield”.
“We were getting ready to march down the street and suddenly waves of people started running, running towards us. And just before it happened, we heard bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang and I thought it was fireworks,” Emily Prazak, who was to march in the parade, told AFP.
The shooter immediately fled but a “powerful” rifle was found by the police.
– Videos –
According to an American media, the publications of the suspect on the internet are sometimes violent referring to weapons and shootings. His accounts on YouTube and other social networks were not available on Monday evening.
According to local newspaper Chicago Tribune, a video posted eight months ago shows a young man in a bedroom and classroom with posters of a gunman and people being shot at. And an audio comment: “I just need to do it”, then “it’s my destiny. Everything led me to this. Nothing can stop me, not even myself”.
The festivities were immediately suspended in several surrounding towns, which also closed their beaches and called on the population to be extremely careful.
But a shootout occurred in Philadelphia (east) in which two police officers were shot and injured during fireworks, said CBS News, which broadcast video filmed from a skyscraper showing a crowd scattering in a hurry.
The circumstances of this incident were not known at this stage and the local police could not be contacted immediately.
– “An American scourge” –
The tragedy immediately revived the debate on firearms, of which nearly 400 million are in circulation in the United States.
“It’s damning that a party in honor of America is sabotaged by a quintessentially American scourge,” said Illinois Democratic Governor JB Pritzker. “The only freedom we deny our citizens is to live without the daily fear of guns.”
Saying he was “shocked”, Democratic President Joe Biden for his part promised in a press release to “not give up the fight against the epidemic of gun violence” after this new bloodbath.
The United States is still reeling from a series of shootings, including one in an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, which killed 21 people, including 19 children on May 24.
The country is more generally facing an increase in gun violence, with more than 22,400 people killed since the start of the year, according to the Gun Violence Archive, which includes suicides in its data.