A Lake County, Illinois, police officer walks down Central Avenue in Highland Park on July 4, 2022, after a shooter fired on the northern suburb's Fourth of July parade. (Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)
After a mammoth eight-hour manhunt, officers from the Chicago Police Department arrested Robert E. Crimo III just miles from his home and the scene of America’s latest mass shooting. He has yet to be charged, but he is the main suspect in the mass shooting that left six people dead and more than two dozen hospitalized after shots were fired from a rooftop into a Fourth of July parade in Highland Park, Illinois, on Monday morning.
The 21-year-old suspect, who is known as Bobby, has left behind a huge online footprint, much of it linked to his stage name Awake the Rapper. His music and accompanying videos, which are filled with violent imagery and references to mass shootings, have amassed millions of streams on mainstream platforms like Spotify and YouTube. There’s no clear motive for the suspect’s actions, but those on the left are already painting him as a fan of former President Donald Trump, while Trump supporters are claiming he was a member of antifa. But the suspect’s family has said there were “no signs of trouble” or mental illness, and some of the musicians who collaborated with him have said that portraying him as a diehard Trump supporter, a member of antifa, or a far-right extremist, is inaccurate.“He’s not antifa, he’s not some MAGA overlord,” Bennett Brizes, artist and student at Otis College of Art and Design who says he knew the suspect, tweeted. “I know that shit sounds really interesting. But it’s not the truth. He was an isolated stoner who completely lost touch with reality.”
About 15 minutes after the Fourth of July parade began in the wealthy northern Chicago suburb of Highland Park, shots were fired into the crowd. The shooter was positioned on the roof of a building lining the parade route.The shooter accessed the roof using an “unsecured” ladder, Christopher Covelli of the Lake County sheriff’s office told reporters on Monday.
The shooter then fired into the crowd in short bursts, with one eyewitness telling the Chicago Sun-Times that they heard up to 25 shots fired. The police said the shooter was using a “high-powered rifle.”Five of the six victims, who were aged between 8 and 85, died at the scene. The sixth victim, the 8-year-old child, died in hospital. Emergency services transferred 23 victims to hospitals in the area and several others “self-transferred,” the authorities said.While most were treated and sent home, hospital authorities said Monday evening that some victims sustained very serious injuries.After the shooting, the shooter evaded police for over eight hours. Local, state, and federal officers conducted a massive manhunt, going door-to-door in the neighborhood and ordering all those in the central business district to shelter indoors for hours after the shooting took place.By early evening, the police released Crimo’s name, calling him a “person of interest” in the investigation and revealing that they believed he was driving a 2010 Honda Fit and “considered very dangerous.”Around 6:30 p.m., police in North Chicago spotted the vehicle and attempted to detain the suspect. He fled the scene in his car, but following a brief chase, was apprehended six miles away and taken into custody without incident.
The suspect was born Robert Eugene Crimo III on September 20, 2000, in Chicago, according to his biography on the Internet Movie Database (IMDB), which adds that “he’s the middle child of three and of Italian descent.”He lived at home with his parents and at least one uncle, in Highwood, about a mile and a half from where the shooting took place.
His father, Bob Crimo Jr., ran unsuccessfully for mayor of Highland Park in 2019, according to posts on his Facebook page. Crimo Jr. described himself as self-employed and working at Bob’s Pantry & Deli. “Though I have no prior experience in political office, I know the dynamics of Highland Park through my years of experience in business,” he wrote when he announced his candidacy.Neighbors told NBC that they knew when the suspect was coming and going from the house because he would ride an electric scooter while playing loud music. They said the last time they heard him leave was around 10 a.m. on Monday morning, just minutes before the shooting began.The Crimo family has generational ties to the Highland Park area dating back almost a century, according to an obituary for the suspect’s grandfather. His mother is Denise Pesina, 48, a Mormon who practices alternative therapies, according to her Facebook profile.The suspect’s uncle, Paul Crimo, who lives with the family, told Fox 23 Chicago that the family saw no “warning signs” that would indicate he could possibly be involved in the shooting.
“I saw no signs of trouble. And if I did see signs, I would have said something,” his uncle said. He said that his nephew was a “YouTube rapper” who once worked at Panera Bread.
Unlike the young white men who perpetrated the recent mass shootings in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas, the suspect left behind a huge digital trail. As well as having popular accounts on Spotify and YouTube, he was active on Twitter and Facebook, had a Discord channel, and also posted on more fringe message boards.His YouTube videos portray a clear fascination with violence, and mass shootings in particular. In his most recent video uploaded to YouTube, he is seen in the aftermath of a school shooting and the video concludes with him draping himself in the American flag. In an animated video entitled “Toy Soldier”, a character that appears to represent the suspect is seen facing down police and being shot while holding a rifle. In another video, in which he appears in a classroom wearing a black bicycle helmet, he raps about an inevitable event that he can’t stop himself from carrying out. “It’s unstoppable… I need to leave now. I need to just do it. It is my destiny. Everything has led up to this. Nothing can stop me, even myself. Is there such a thing as free will or has this been planned out… it’s what I was sent here to do. Like a sleepwalker… walking blindly into the night.”
Social media presence
Hi’s YouTube channel also featured a logo that appears to resemble the one used by the Finnish far-right group known as Suomen Sisu, which has published books by white supremacist David Duke. His Discord channel was also called “SS” which may be a reference to Hitler’s personal bodyguard troop.The suspect appeared to be a fan of the video game Hitman. He posted images of himself dressed as the main character from the game, Agent 47, on social media, and had a 47 tattoo on his face. Pictures of a car he drove parked outside his parents’ house on Monday night, posted to social media, also show a “47” decal on the driver’s door.He also posted frequently on a message board that discussed graphic depictions of murder, suicide, and death, NBC reported, adding that his most recent post to that message board last week was a video of a beheading.
Elsewhere on social media, he posted multiple pictures of himself at Trump rallies, some of which feature him dressed as the title character from “Where’s Waldo?” He has also posted pictures of himself wrapped in a Trump flag, and a video he shot of Trump landing at an airport and leaving in his motorcade.However, many on the right immediately moved to distance themselves from the suspect, claiming—without evidence—that he was a member of antifa and dressed as a Trump supporter to trick the mainstream media. But as both sides of the political divide argue over who is to blame for radicalizing the suspect, those who knew him paint a picture of someone who was taking inspiration from everywhere.“He coopted aesthetics from the left and right but I don’t think he was any of those things, I think he was lost,” Brizes tweeted. “Gravitated towards aesthetics he found interesting. Maybe things can change in a couple of years, but he was never a white nationalist. And was never a leftist.”Want the best of VICE News straight to your inbox? Sign up here.