At least six people were killed and 24 injured in a shooting at the July 4 parade in the Chicago suburb of Highland Park, and officers are looking for a suspect who may have opened fire on the celebrations from a rooftop, police said Monday.
Highland Park Police Commander Chris O’Neill, incident commander at the scene, urged people to take shelter in places as authorities search for the suspect, who is described as a white man wearing a white or blue T-shirt.
Lake County Main Crime Task Force spokesman Christopher Covelli told a news conference that the gunman appeared to have opened fire on parade-goers from a rooftop using a rifle found at the scene. He didn’t know which building.
Covelli said police believed there was only one shooter and warned that he should still be considered armed and dangerous. He and O’Neill described the shooting as random.
Police have not released details about the victims or the injured.
“This morning at 10:14 a.m., our community was terrorized by an act of violence that has shaken us to our core,” Mayor Nancy Rotering said at a news conference.
“Our hearts go out to the families of the victims at this devastating time. On the day we gather to celebrate community and freedom, we mourn the tragic loss of life and struggle with the terror that has befallen us.”
Hundreds of parade-goers – some seen covered in blood – fled the parade route after gunfire rang out, leaving their belongings behind. By late afternoon, ominous signs of a joyous event suddenly turned to horror on both sides of Central Street where the shooting took place.
Dozens of baby bullets, some with American flags, abandoned children’s bicycles, and helmets bearing Cinderella’s print were left in a hurry. Blankets, garden chairs, coffee and water bottles were thrown as people fled.
Armed police, some in camouflage gear and many holding AR-style guns continued to pour into the area.
Highland Park Police initially said in a statement Monday morning that five people had died and 19 had been taken to hospital. but the figures were revised soon after the press conference.
Video taken by a Sun-Times journalist after gunfire was heard shows a band on top of a float playing as people rushed past, screaming.
“People started saying ‘There’s a shooter’”
Gina Troiani and her son were lined up with the nursery class ready to walk down the parade route when she heard a loud noise she believed to be fireworks—until she heard people screaming about the shooter.
“We just started running in the opposite direction,” he told The Associated Press.
Her 5 year old son is riding his bicycle decorated with red and blue curly ribbons. He and the other children in the group held small American flags. Troiani said he pushed his son’s bike, running through the neighborhood to get back to their car.
Debbie Glickman, a Highland Park resident, said she was in a parade float with co-workers and the group was preparing to turn onto the main route when she saw people fleeing the area.
“People started saying ‘There’s a shooter, there’s a shooter, there’s a shooter,'” Glickman told the Associated Press. “So we just run. We just ran. It’s like mass chaos over there.”
He didn’t hear a sound or see anyone who looked hurt.
“I was so scared,” he said. “This is very sad.”
The Lake County Sheriff’s Office said on Twitter that it was assisting Highland Park Police “with a shooting in the area of the Independence Day parade route.”
The sheriff’s office directed an AP reporter to contact Highland Park Police. The Police Department said nothing was immediately available to discuss the incident.
The city leader said on Twitter that “Police are responding to the incident in downtown Highland Park. The Fourth Fest has been cancelled. Please avoid downtown Highland Park. More information will be shared as it becomes available.”
The city says on its website that the parade will feature floats, marching bands, new groups, community entries and other special entertainment.
The children’s and pet’s bicycle parade is also scheduled to start 30 minutes before the main parade.