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Monday, August 08, 2022
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Highland Park mass shooter ‘seriously contemplated’ second attack in Madison

Officials say after leaving Illinois the shooter drove to Madison with a gun and multiple rounds of ammunition and considered carrying out another attack in the city.

Shortly after Monday’s mass shooting in Highland Park, Illinois that left at least seven people dead and more than three dozen injured, the alleged shooter drove up to Madison, Wisconsin and “seriously contemplated” executing another attack, according to the Lake County Sheriff's Office. 

The alleged shooter, Robert “Bobby” Eugene Crimo III, 21, who has since been charged with seven counts of first degree murder, came to Madison shortly after his deadly rampage at the Highland Park Fourth of July parade with a firearm — a Kel-Tec SUB200 — and approximately 60 rounds of ammunition, officials said. 

“Investigators did develop some information that it appears when he drove to Madison, he was driving around, however, he did see a celebration that was occurring in Madison, and he seriously contemplated using the firearm he had in his vehicle to commit another shooting in Madison,” said Chris Covelli, the Deputy Chief of the Lake County Sheriff's Office. 

Covelli said that authorities believe Crimo was in the Wisconsin area from 2-4 p.m., and they are not sure which celebration they passed. 

Unlike the Highland Park shooting, which officials believe was planned for several weeks beforehand, Covelli said Madison, which is about 140 miles north of the Chicago suburb, was not initially a target.  

"We don’t have information to suggest he planned to drive to Madison initially to commit another attack,” Covelli said. “We do believe he was driving around following the first attack and saw the celebration.” 

When asked what might have stopped Crimo from carrying out an attack in Madison, Covelli said “indications are that he hadn’t put enough thought or research into [the attack].”

In a press conference Wednesday, Madison Police Department Chief Shon Barnes shared that around 5 p.m. Monday the FBI contacted the Madison Police Department and requested it mobilize its SWAT team. While the team was preparing, they learned Crimo had been apprehended. At the time, Barnes said he was not warned that the shooter was considering another attack in the city.

The Dane County Sheriff Department is deferring all inquiries about the shooting to the FBI. Madison Police Chief Shon Barnes told The Cap Times he was unable to provide any updates on the investigation and is waiting for more information from law enforcement partners.

“We are deeply troubled to learn the suspected Illinois parade shooter considered carrying out another attack here in Madison,” Barnes said in a statement. “We feel for the grieving families in Highland Park and all those forever impacted by the events of Monday's shooting. We recognize tragedy very well could have taken place in our own community. That reality is upsetting to all of us here in Madison, including the members of the Madison Police Department.”

“Protecting you, the members of our community, will always be a top priority for our department,” he added.

Three major Fourth of July celebrations occurred on the outskirts of Madison Monday night, with numerous smaller celebrations throughout the city. Crimo made the confession in a voluntary statement, according to officials.  

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Before leaving the Madison area, Crimo buried his cell phone in Middleton on the side of Jim’s Auto Service Center on the 6500 block of University Avenue. According to NBC 5 Investigates, the reason Crimo went to Madison was to dump his phone to blind side authorities. The FBI later retrieved the phone Tuesday morning, having reportedly tracked the phone to the address. The Middleton Police Department released a statement saying they have been working with the FBI since the night of the shooting, though MPD is not involved with the investigation.

Upon leaving Wisconsin, Crimo returned to Illinois, where he was apprehended by police in Lake Forest. The Lake County Sheriff's Office said both the aforementioned firearm in his car and the rifle used in Highland Park were purchased legally, though Crimo had attracted police attention more than once in the past

In September of 2019 the Highland Park police had filed a “clear and present danger” report about Crimo after responding to a call from a family member who said he was threatening to kill everyone there. The police seized 16 knives, a dagger and a sword from his home, though they were returned the same day after Crimo’s father told officers he owned the knives. The police were already familiar with Crimo by then; that April they had responded to a reported suicide attempt. 

In a press conference Wednesday Illinois State Police said Crimo was able to obtain a Firearm Identification card legally in 2019. In December of that year, his father co-sponsored and signed the underage Crimo’s application, which was approved in January. The police also released records Wednesday showing that Crimo had told Highland Park officers in 2019 he had been depressed and on drugs.

An affluent suburb of Chicago, Highland Park is home to many University of Wisconsin-Madison students and alumni, some of whom were in the crowd when shots broke out.

Zac Pestine, who grew up in Buffalo Grove — about 20 minutes from downtown Highland Park — and has family and friends in the town, remembered the shock and anxiety that he experienced when he learned what was happening at the parade.

“On Monday morning at about 10:15 a.m. my dad sends a message in [our family group text] that there are gunshots at the parade,” said Pestine, a UW-Madison and Daily Cardinal alum. “[Calling him], it sounded like chaos in the background. People yelling, sirens. He said someone was shouting and he was hiding behind a door.”

“My uncle was in the thick of it,” Pestine relayed. “He saw bodies and blood on the ground.”

Pestine’s family eventually returned home unharmed but a family friend, Jackie Sundheim, was killed.

Although the shooter didn’t ultimately carry out an attack on Madison, news that he could have done so rattled a community already grappling with an ever-increasing newsfeed of gun deaths across the nation.

“So many people I love and care about are in Madison this summer, it could’ve been them,” a widely shared story on Instagram laments. “It could be YOU. it could be ME. nothing exempts you from violence in this country. Not your affluent suburb. Not your happy college town.”

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photo by Lili Phung


In a statement released Wednesday afternoon, Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway expressed her condolences to the victims and called the news that the suspected shooter considered further violence in Madison “deeply disturbing,” saying it only underscored the need for a national approach to dealing with gun violence. 

“Weapons of war have no place in our communities,” said Rhodes-Conway, who called for assault weapons and large-capacity magazines to be banned. “Here in Madison – and in cities across the country – we are doing what we can to control illegal guns, hold people accountable for gun violence and invest in violence interruption and prevention. But we cannot do this alone. We need Congress to do its job and protect our communities.​​”

Dane County Executive Joe Parisi echoed this sentiment on Twitter, stating “until the State Legislature and Congress get serious about enacting common sense gun laws,” tragedies like this will continue. 

“Ours is the only developed nation in the world dealing w/ this level of gun violence, and while there are many contributing factors, the fact remains that guns outnumber people in the US,” Parisi said. “The availability of guns & ammo to basically anyone who wants them is the root cause of the problem.”

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