Tears and vow to fight on for a national assault weapons ban mark Highland Park’s first City Council meeting since massacre
“I will not stop trying. We will not stop trying,” Mayor Nancy Rotering said of the fight for a federal ban of assault rifles and high capacity magazines.
As Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering’s voice began to crack and strain, tears filling her eyes, fellow members of the City Council joined hands with her and each other Monday at their first gathering at City Hall since the July 4th massacre.
“I am so appreciative of our entire city team and all who’ve joined together to support our community, they have lifted us up with special care and attention, and we are united in the face of trauma,” Rotering said.
“Tonight marks another milestone in our journey forward,” she said.
Rotering and Highland Park’s six City Council members bowed their heads in a moment of silence in memory of the seven people killed and the dozens who were wounded.
Killed in the massacre were Irina and Kevin McCarthy, Jacki Sundheim, Katherine Goldstein, Eduardo Uvaldo, Nicolas Toledo and Stephen Straus.
Rotering renewed her call for a national ban on assault weapons and high capacity magazines.
“I will not stop trying. We will not stop trying,” she said in a forceful voice.
Rotering has been to the nation’s capital twice in recent weeks as part of her mission to advocate for gun control.
Rotering, as well as Police Chief Lou Jogmen and Fire Department Chief Joe Schrage, were among several city officials who received standing ovations for carrying out their duties the day of the shooting.
As council members discussed and approved a $500,000 grant program for businesses that were shuttered for a week in the aftermath of the shooting, Jogmen sat in the back of the room reading and responding to dozens of texts expressing well wishes that he hadn’t had time to look at since the day of the shooting.
Chairs and other items that were left by folks scrambling for cover the day of the shooting lay on a walkway next to City Hall on Monday for people to reclaim. The items have been there about a week and will remain there for the immediate future.
It’s uncertain what will become of them if they go unclaimed. They’ll be put in storage until city leaders figure it out.
A permanent memorial honoring victims of the shooting will be erected in Highland Park, eventually. But city leaders said they will put the effort on hold for a while to give the community time to mourn.
One of the few residents to attend the meeting was Herbert Kruse, whose apartment is directly next to the building where the shooter perched while firing off dozens of rounds.
Kruse was at the parade and rushed home with his wife as bullets flew over his head.
At the time, he thought the shooter might have been on the roof of his building and could perhaps drop through a skylight into his apartment.
In the days after the shooting, Kruse, 62, an art teacher, created portraits of each person killed in the shooting and placed them for a time at a public memorial in downtown Highland Park.
On Monday, he brought the framed portraits to the council meeting and asked that they be looked after and perhaps presented to surviving family members.
“I don’t know what to do with them right now — I’m moving tomorrow,” he said during a portion of the meeting reserved for public comments.
“I don’t feel safe in that building anymore,” he said, despite surveillance cameras and lights that have been placed in the alley behind his home since the day of the shooting.
Kruse said he’d been planning to move any way but is expediting the move and heading to Colorado.
“Thank you,” Rotering said. “We’ll be thinking of you . . . and we will absolutely make sure those are safely held and take care of them.”
Also on the agenda Monday was approving the minutes of an emergency City Council meeting that was held the morning of the shooting to invoke emergency powers, said City Manager Ghida Neukirch.
Most council members were at the parade.
“In last three weeks, this community has truly shown the best of Highland Park,” Neukirch said.