The quiet neighbor few noticed — but police say man planned a mass shooting for weeks

Paul Crimo said he had no inkling his nephew, Bobby Crimo, was planning the Fourth of July attack. Church members and neighbors also said they had no suspicions.

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Robert “Bobby” Crimo III’s car in the yard where he rented an apartment in Highwood.

Robert “Bobby” Crimo III’s car in the yard where he rented an apartment in Highwood.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Time

The day before he allegedly opened fire on the Highland Park Independence Day Parade, Robert Crimo III attended a service at a church only a few yards from where police say he later perched on a roof and fired more than 70 rounds into the crowds below.

“I saw him the day before ... and I was asking what he was doing for the Fourth and he said ‘Not really anything,’ you know, he was just kind of mumbling which was typical for him to be very quiet,” according to Charlotte Bank, a longtime member of Christ Church Highland Park where she said Crimo was a regular at Thursday night informal gatherings, as well as Sunday services.

Charlotte Bank, a longtime member of Christ Church Highland Park, where she said Robert Crimo III was a regular at Thursday night informal gatherings, as well as Sunday services.

Charlotte Bank, a longtime member of Christ Church Highland Park, where she said Robert Crimo III was a regular at Thursday night informal gatherings, as well as Sunday services.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

The alleged gunman’s uncle, Paul Crimo, likewise said he had no reason to suspect his nephew was planning an attack for weeks, and did not know he owned a high-powered rifle, as police said Tuesday, though the pair shared a pale gray stucco home in the North Shore suburb of Highwood for the past two years.

“He was a very quiet guy. We really didn’t engage,” Paul Crimo said. “He lived in the back apartment and I lived in the front house. We really didn’t see each other.”

Other neighbors on Pleasant Drive said they rarely, if ever, saw the 21-year-old. He wasn’t the type to come out and chat. He would zip by, music blaring, on an electric scooter.

“I never saw him outside,” said a neighbor who agreed to be identified only as Steve. “I never saw people his age in the house.”

Robert E. Crimo III, 21

Robert E. Crimo III, 21

Highland Park Police Department

On Tuesday, Crimo’s neighbors said there were no visits from the police that anyone noticed — or anything else that seemed untoward.

It was only Monday when a SWAT team arrived that neighbors took particular notice of the slightly shabby-looking home.

Those descriptions of Crimo are in contrast to how the young man presented himself in his music and online.

Paul Crimo said he was unaware of the troubling messages on social media that the Chicago Sun-Times reviewed, including a pair of videos attributed to Crimo that contain disturbing images suggestive of school shootings, which were taken offline by Monday evening.

In one, titled “Toy Soldier,” a voice can be heard saying “I know the future, I sold my soul for a phone and a computer” and “I just want to scream, sometimes it feels like I’m living a dream.” The voice continues, “Living the dream, nothing’s real, I just want to scream, f--- this world.”

Bank said she has no understanding why Robert Crimo III allegedly attacked the parade and that she was horrified to learn police believe Crimo was behind the shooting.

“I don’t have any understanding of why. I don’t. He is an unusual man. You’ve seen him in pictures. He presents himself in an unusual, very kind of odd way,” she said.

Crimo had been scheduled to come to Bank’s home last Monday, a week before Independence Day.

But he canceled.

“He’d let me know a couple days before the event that he wouldn’t be coming, that something had come up,” she said.

Bank said he never spoke about guns or politics.

“That would have given me a clue,” she said.

Paul Crimo last saw his nephew about 5 p.m. Sunday. Crimo was lying in his uncle’s recliner in the main part of the house — looking at his cellphone.

“I saw no signs — nothing,” Crimo said.

Robert Crimo III was arrested Monday while driving a Honda Fit. His uncle said the young man owns a silver Acura, which sat in the Crimos’ front yard Tuesday, weeds growing up around the tires.

The number “47” was painted in large black-and-gold letters on the driver and passenger side doors. Paul Crimo didn’t know what it meant. He also knew nothing about his nephew’s music career; he doesn’t like rap music.

Robert Crimo III had a job at Panera Bread but lost that position two years ago at the onset of the pandemic and was unemployed, his uncle said. The uncle also said he’d not been inside his nephew’s apartment for several months.

Paul Crimo said the FBI showed up Monday but left without taking anything.

Paul Crimo, uncle of Robert Crimo III, on Tuesday leaves the Highwood house the two shared.

Paul Crimo, uncle of Robert Crimo III, on Tuesday leaves the Highwood house the two shared.

Max Herman/Getty

On Tuesday, Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering told NBC’s Today show that she remembered the younger Crimo from her days as a Cub Scout leader when he was a cub scout.

“It’s one of those things where you step back and you say, what happened? How did somebody become this angry, this hateful to then take it out on innocent people?” Rotering said.

When asked what she recalled about him, Rotering replied: “He was just a little boy.”

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