CHICAGO – In a rare move, officials announced charges Friday against the father of the gunman accused of fatally shooting seven people at a Fourth of July parade in Highland Park, Illinois.
Robert Crimo, Jr. faces seven counts of felony reckless conduct, Lake County State’s Attorney Eric Rinehart said in a press conference.
Crimo took a “reckless and unjustified risk” when he signed the application for his son’s firearm owners ID card in December of 2019, Rinehart said. At the time, Crimo’s son was 19 and could not obtain a FOID card or firearm “without his father’s assistance,” he said.
“He knew what he knew, and he signed the form anyway. This was criminally reckless and a contributing cause to the bodily harm suffered by the victims of July 4th,” Rinehart said.
Crimo likely faces up to three years in prison on the charges, Rinehart said. Each count faces up to three years, and they typically run concurrently, he said.
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The parents or guardians of a high-profile mass shooting suspect are rarely charged in connection with a massacre. But the charges Friday come a year after the parents of the Michigan teen who killed four students and injured others at Oxford High School were charged with involuntary manslaughter in the shooting. They’ve been in jail since then as a state appeals court considers an appeal.
Crimo turned himself in to police on Friday and will have a bond hearing Saturday, Rinehart said. Asked about the specifics of what Crimo knew at that time, Rinehart declined to comment further. But he added: “The parents know what is going on with their teenagers.”
Authorities have previously said the accused shooter attempted suicide by machete in April 2019 and in September 2019 was accused by a family member of making threats to “kill everyone.”
Both reports happened months before his father sponsored him getting a gun license.
Chicago-area attorney George M. Gomez told the Associated Press he was representing Robert Crimo Jr. in the newly announced criminal case. He declined to answer questions but emailed a statement that described the charges as “baseless and unprecedented.”
“This decision should alarm every single parent in the United States of America who according to the Lake County State’s Attorney knows exactly what is going on with their 19 year old adult children and can be held criminally liable for actions taken nearly three years later,” the statement from Gomez said. “These charges are absurd and we will fight them every step of the way.”
The 21-year-old shooting suspect, Robert E. Crimo III, faces 21 counts of first-degree murder, 48 counts of attempted murder and 48 counts of aggravated battery in the massacre, which injured nearly 40 people.
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Crimo fired down on parade-goers from a rooftop, sending some running as others dove on top of their children to shield them from the hail of bullets, authorities said. He fled the scene, driving to Wisconsin then back to the Chicago area before North Chicago police officers spotted his car and made the arrest.
In addition to the seven fatalities, the attack left a two-year-old boy orphaned and an eight-year-old boy paralyzed from the waist down.
Highland Park survivors and families went to Capitol Hill in the wake of the shooting to advocate for gun control. That same month, the House narrowly passed a bill the that would make it illegal for anyone to import, sell, manufacture, transfer or possess certain semi-automatic weapons. But there’s been little movement on the measure.
Crimo used a high-powered Smith & Wesson M&P 15 semi-automatic rifle in the attack. Families are suing the gun maker, claiming it illegally targeted young men at risk of violence with advertisements for firearms.
On Friday, Rinehart again called for legislators to ban assault weapons and large-capacity magazines. “Gun violence is a uniquely American devastation, but it is not destiny,” Rinehart said. “It is a decision.”
Meanwhile, Illinois lawmakers are also considering an assault weapons ban. The proposed bill would ban the manufacture, sell or purchase of an assault weapon, assault weapon attachment, .50-caliber rifle, or .50-caliber cartridge in Illinois. The bill would also raise the age for a FOID card from 18 to 21, among other measures.
Contributing: Associated Press