The revelation that the suspect in the Highland Park parade shooting had at least two previous encounters with law enforcement has raised new questions about how he was able to legally purchase his guns and whether more could have been done to prevent the massacre.
In September 2019, a family member told Highland Park police that the man, Robert E. Crimo III, had threatened to “kill everyone,” said Christopher Covelli, a spokesman for the Lake County Major Crime Task Force. Officers visited Crimo’s home and confiscated 16 knives, a dagger and a sword, but made no arrest, Covelli said on Tuesday, because they lacked probable cause. However, they notified Illinois State Police, he said.
Months later, in December, Crimo applied for a firearm owner’s identification card, the document required to possess a gun in Illinois. Because Crimo was under 21 at the time, state law required him to have the consent of a parent or guardian before he could own a firearm or ammunition. According to state police, which issues the cards, Crimo’s father sponsored his permit application.
State police had received a “clear and present danger report” on Crimo after the September incident, but because at the time he did not have a pending application or an active permit, known as a FOID card, the agency ruled there was no action it could take. When reviewing Crimo’s application less than six months later, state police officials once again decided there was nothing they could do — this time, the agency said, because Crimo had a sponsor.
“The subject was under 21 and the application was sponsored by the subject’s father,” Illinois State Police said in a statement. “Therefore, at the time of FOID application review in January of 2020, there was insufficient basis to establish a clear and present danger and deny the FOID application.”
In a subsequent statement, state police said Crimo had passed four federal background checks when purchasing his firearms and said the report from Highland Park police indicated he had told officers that he did not feel like hurting himself or others when they interviewed him in September 2019. At the time, Crimo’s father claimed the seized knives were his, and Highland Park police returned them that afternoon, state police said.
Officials on Tuesday did not say whether police confiscation of knives and other weapons should have been basis enough to deny Crimo’s application.
“Highland Park police notified the Illinois State Police,” Covelli said. “Where it goes from there, I don’t want to speak to it.”
At a news conference announcing the initial criminal charges against Crimo, Lake County State’s Attorney Eric Rinehart said Illinois’ red-flag law, which allows loved ones to ask a court to temporarily remove guns from those deemed violent or threatening, is “very powerful.” Yet the law is rarely used.
“We must vastly increase awareness and education about this red-flag law,” Rinehart said.