Dad of suspect in Highland Park Fourth of July massacre OK’d his seeking gun permit, state police say

Robert E. Crimo III, identified as the suspect in the killings, bought the AR-15-style semiautomatic rifle used in the slayings, officials said Tuesday.

SHARE Dad of suspect in Highland Park Fourth of July massacre OK’d his seeking gun permit, state police say

A member of the FBI’s Evidence Response Team Unit investigates in downtown Highland Park, less than 24 hours after a gunman killed seven people and wounded dozens more by firing a high-powered rifle from a rooftop onto a crowd attending Highland Park’s Fourth of July parade, Tuesday morning, July 5, 2022.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

The Highland Park massacre suspect was too young to get a gun permit in 2019 from the state of Illinois, but his father sponsored him for one anyway — even after the son had threatened to kill himself and his family, authorities said Tuesday.

In early 2020, Robert E. Crimo III got a state firearm owner’s identification card.

He needed that to buy the “high-powered” AR-15-style semiautomatic rifle that police and prosecutors said he used to kill seven people and wound dozens of others who lined the streets of Highland Park for its Fourth of July parade Monday.

Crimo, 21, was charged Tuesday with seven counts of murder in connection with the rooftop attack.

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The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives did an “urgent” investigation into the ownership of the recovered gun Monday and determined that Crimo had bought the rifle legally, officials said.

Hours later, he was arrested just north of Highland Park on U.S. 41 after police stopped the Honda he was driving based on a reported sighting of the car.

Police recovered the rifle in Highland Park.

Crimo had another rifle in the Honda and also had pistols in a home where he lived in nearby Highwood, authorities said.

They said the two rifles were bought legally in the Chicago area but didn’t identify the makes or models of those weapons or the “different locations” where they were purchased.

The handguns also were bought in Illinois, officials said, but they didn’t say where.

Tuesday night, offering the first details about how Crimo got the firearm owner’s identification card he needed to buy the guns, the Illinois State Police said it received a “clear and present danger” report in September 2019 that Crimo threatened his family.

According to Lake County officials, police had visited Crimo’s home twice in 2019 after he threatened to kill himself and his family. Police said they recovered knives from the home but no guns.

But, authorities pointed out, he responded no when asked if he felt like harming himself or others, and his father said the knives were his and were being stored in his son’s closet for safekeeping. Based on that information, the Highland Park police returned the knives to the father the same day.

Crimo wasn’t arrested in those matters. And no one, including his family, pressed a complaint or provided information about those threats or any mental health problems that could have allowed law enforcement to “take further action,” according to the state police.

Crimo didn’t have a firearm owner’s identification card in September 2019, according to the state police, who normally don’t reveal the details of an individual’s possession of a FOID card.

Then, in December 2019, when he was 19, Crimo applied for a FOID card, according to the state police. Because he was under 21, the application had to be sponsored by a parent or guardian, according to state law.

“The application was sponsored by the subject’s father,” the agency said.

In January 2020, “There was insufficient basis to establish a clear and present danger to deny the FOID application” and Crimo was given a card, according to the state police. The only offense on his record was a 2016 ordinance violation for possession of tobacco.

Crimo passed four separate background checks to buy guns on June 9, 2020, July 18, 2020, July 31, 2020 and Sept. 20, 2021, the state police said.

Crimo’s father couldn’t be reached.

In a text message, Crimo’s uncle Paul Crimo called the state police version of events a “false statement about [being] sponsored” but wouldn’t elaborate.

On Tuesday, Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering told NBC’s Today Show she knew Crimo when he was a Cub Scout and she was a scout leader.

“He was just a little boy,” Rotering said.

Rotering said the nation should focus on preventing mass shootings from reoccurring and not on a young man who “clearly had a mental breakdown.”

“There are weapons of war on the streets,” Rotering said. “People can legally obtain these and take out dozens of people. Our community will never recover from this wound.”

Highland Park has had an ordinance banning semi-automatic rifles, including AR-15s and AK-47s, since 2013.

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