The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Highland Park shooting suspect pleads not guilty

A Highland Park business with an HP Strong sign. (Nam Y. Huh/AP)
Placeholder while article actions load

Highland Park, Ill. — The man accused of shooting into a Fourth of July crowd in Highland Park pleaded not guilty before a Lake County judge on Wednesday.

Robert Crimo III is accused of killing seven and wounding dozens more in the mass killing in this tightknit Chicago suburb. Authorities have said the suspect confessed to the deadly attack and considered committing a similar shooting in Wisconsin later that same day.

An Illinois grand jury indicted Crimo on 117 counts presented by State’s Attorney Eric Rinehart this week.

Rinehart said Crimo faces 21 counts of first-degree murder and explained that if he is convicted of murdering any two people, he will face natural life without the possibility of parole. Reinhart said 48 victims were named in the indictment.

Crimo’s attorneys did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

On Wednesday, Crimo was handcuffed and masked. He sat straight in his chair and clearly told the judge that he understood the charges. His parents attended the hearing as well.

George Gomez, attorney for Crimo’s parents, said his mother has spoken to him by phone. “At the end of the day Bobby Crimo III is still the son of my client,” Gomez said. “They are devastated but want to show support for [their son] as much as possible.”

Gomez also denied that the suspect’s father should face charges for sponsoring his son’s gun permit application months after relatives said Crimo had threatened to “kill everyone.” Gomez argued that authorities had conducted a background check and are ultimately responsible for the suspect obtaining a weapon. He said Crimo is not concerned about being charged and will continue to cooperate with police.

“The family wants to help the community heal and still retain some privacy,” Gomez said.

Ashbey Beasley, who attended the Fourth of July parade with her 6-year-old son, watched the hearing on Zoom. Beasley told reporters that she attended the hearing because people in her community “are broken and living in fear. I wanted to be a presence for them. To be able to sit in the courtroom and know that my town matters.”

Since the parade, she said that her son has lost a huge part of his innocence and that he worries he might be shot whenever they venture out.

For the last three Wednesdays, Beasley has traveled to Washington to advocate for a federal assaults weapons ban.

“This shooter walked into a store and legally purchased a weapon,” Beasley said. “In a matter of seconds, he shot hundreds of rounds and destroyed families … it will happen again if we don’t have the federal assault weapons ban.”

Crimo will appear again in court Nov. 1 and is not demanding trial at this time.