Highland Park Fourth of July massacre suspect believed to have been turned away from synagogue

A Jewish security group says that, after seeing photos of Robert E. “Bobby” Crimo III, a Highland Park rabbi “recognized him” as the man turned away from a Passover service at his synagogue in April.

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Federal inspect two houses in Highland Park that’s associated with the suspect in a mass shooting where 6 people were killed and at least 2 dozen where injured at a Fourth of July parade in Highland Park, Monday, July 4, 2022. | Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

The 21-year-old suspect in the Highland Park Fourth of July parade mass shooting is believed to have been turned away from a synagogue in the North Shore community in April, according to the head of a Jewish security organization.

A man who looks like Robert E. Crimo III entered the Chabad synagogue during Passover, said Michael Masters, chief executive officer of Secure Community Network, which is headquartered in Chicago.

Masters said Crimo wasn’t on his organization’s radar until Monday, after police, identifying him as the suspect in the massacre that killed seven people and left dozens wounded, released a photo of Crimo showing the tattoos he has on his face and neck.

Masters said his organization spoke to people in the Jewish community who confirmed the rabbi had recognized Crimo “as the same individual who visited the synagogue in April.”

“Security encountered him,” Masters said. “There was a conversation with the individual, and he ultimately left.”

Rabbi Yosef Schanowitz released a statement Tuesday saying an individual he believes was Crimo was wearing a yarmulke when he visited the synagogue. He “seemed out of place,” Schanowitz said.

“Upon arriving, he was greeted by our security team, which includes off-duty police officers and licensed and trained congregants, who observed him throughout,” Schanowitz said. “A short while later, he departed without incident.

“Let us take comfort in the indisputable reality that when light and goodness encounter darkness, evil and hate, it is light and goodness that will ultimately prevail,” Schanowitz said.

Masters’ group works with the FBI and the federal Department of Homeland Security to protect Jewish facilities across the country. It provided training at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas, near Fort Worth that the rabbi and three congregants at that synagogue said they relied on when a gunman took them hostage early this year.

Highland Park has a large Jewish population, but Masters said his organization hasn’t found any information to make him think the motivation for the shootings was antisemitism.

“Nothing overtly we have identified in his social media posts says this was an antisemitic attack, but we are coordinating with law enforcement,” Masters said. “Apparently on social media, there are some indications he was ideating around the Fourth of July for some period of time, which would indicate this was not an attack on one particular community.”

Authorities said Tuesday they didn’t have any information the attack targeted anyone by race or religion.

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