Robert Bobby Crimo III, suspected mass shooter at Highland Park, left lane of red flags

Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering revealed on Tuesday that she knew Robert “Bobby” Crimo, the 21-year-old accused of having killed seven people at a peaceful July 4 parade and dozens more wounded, she expressed shock that a “little boy” in the Boy Scouts would somehow become a mass murderer.

But some of the people who grew up listening to Crimo — a lanky, aspiring YouTube rapper who’s adorned with tattoos and whose music is steeped in violent imagery — said they’d seen troubling warning signs.

“There were a lot of red flags with him,” a former Highland Park High School classmate told The Daily Beast. “I told my teacher I didn’t want to sit next to him. He really scared me.”

Hours to Highland Park, a town once known as the setting Ferris turns blue and sixteen candles, became the latest site of mass gunshot slaughter in America, one community struggled to process why it became a target. And why the son of a prominent local businessman running for mayor had descended into a twisted online world obsessed with mass murder, memes and mayhem – and whether he might have been stopped before it was too late.

By all accounts, Crimo wasn’t a well-adjusted teenager who has suddenly gone wildly off course in recent weeks. On Tuesday, police revealed a September 2019 incident in which Crimo allegedly threatened to “kill everyone in this family” while hoarding 16 knives, a dagger and a sword. He had also attempted suicide that same April, police said.

None of the incidents resulted in an arrest, which may have made it easier for him to legally purchase the guns that cops say he killed innocent people.

A review of Crimo’s social media posts, online discourse, and music videos points to someone clearly obsessed with violent imagery, mass shootings, and high-profile killers. But conversations with people who know him suggested it was difficult to rid his more mundane adolescent habits, like his love of hip-hop, of the potential for evil, even if his demeanor was disconcerting at times.

“He was always showing violent things to everyone,” added the same former classmate, noting that she had a class with Crimo and that he made frequent appearances. “Violent music videos and lyrics. He would try to get everyone to know about his rapping.”

Authorities are yet to paint a clear picture of a motive behind the deadly shooting. But they said Crimo spent weeks planning the horrific attack, which was launched from a rooftop where he opened fire on random parade participants waiting for floats and marching bands below.

Deputy Superintendent Christopher Covelli, a spokesman for the Lake County Sheriff’s Office, said Tuesday Crimo wore women’s clothing during the attack “to hide his face tattoos and identity and to help him escape with … other people who might have been killed by the attack.” chaos fled. ”

After that, he quickly blended in with the chaotic crowd before finally running to his mother’s house and borrowing her car, police said, noting he had the gun they salvaged from the roof of Crimo, allegedly used as a sniper’s nest served, had legally obtained.

Crimo has been charged with seven counts of first-degree murder, Lake County District Attorney Eric Rinehart said Tuesday, noting he expects more charges. He faces a hearing on Wednesday morning.

On Tuesday, his mother’s Highland Park home stood out in a neat neighborhood: the grass and plants were overgrown, and the glass on the front door almost fell out when opened.

Denise Pesina was sitting in the driveway of a small white car, talking on the phone with the engine running. She heartily declined to answer questions and referred The Daily Beast to her attorney.

No one answered the door at the home of Robert Crimo Jr., the suspected gunman’s father, where the 21-year-old lived in the apartment at the back of the property. It was unclear whether and when the parents ended living together.

A car with stickers is parked in front of the home where Robert Crimo III lives in the Chicago suburb of Highwood, Illinois on July 5, 2022.

Photo by MAX HERMAN/AFP via Getty Images

While none of Crimo’s parents responded to requests for comment, her attorney told The Daily Beast they were “absolutely shocked” by the allegations against their son.

Attorney Steven Greenberg, who previously represented R. Kelly, said the couple “don’t know what happened” during the parade – and what may have prompted Crimo to become involved in such a grisly conspiracy.

“Nobody believes that a tragedy of this magnitude would happen to their family. When they first heard about the shooting, they had no idea Bobby could be involved.”

Greenberg stated that Crimo’s parents knew he had legally acquired multiple firearms in Illinois, but stressed that his clients never thought anything like Monday’s tragedy could happen. He suggested they held onto the hope that somehow the police got it wrong – that “it turns out it’s not what it seems” because no parent “wants to wake up knowing that their child, whom they love and raised, who can spend the rest of their lives in prison.”

Authorities arrested Crimo after a seven-hour manhunt when a North Chicago police officer spotted the car he was believed to be driving. The 21-year-old fled, but was arrested in Lake Forest after a brief pursuit. Inside the car, police said they found a second legally-obtained rifle.

The fact that Crimo’s parents weren’t exactly nobodies made the shooting even more troubling for some of his former classmates.

“His father ran a popular deli in the area and even ran for mayor in 2019,” Mark Heymann, who was a year older than Crimo in school but said he’s known the family for years, told The Daily Beast.

Crimo Jr., who lost the race two to one to the incumbent, ran with the slogan “One Person for the People.” A now-deleted Facebook profile suggests that Crimo’s mother was involved in the world of alternative medicine.

Jeremy Cahnmann, who ran an after-school sports program at Lincoln Elementary School, told Fox News that Crimo’s parents were always the last ones to pick him and his younger brother up after classes. He said that Crimo was just nine or 10 years old when he was enrolled in the school’s Nerf football program.

“I remember the parents more than him because they were kind of a problem,” Cahnmann said. “The kid was really calm, spoke very softly, never made a problem.”

Several former classmates told The Daily Beast that Crimo was “quiet” — a “loner” who never really hung out with a group. Heymann, who participated in Boy Scouts with Crimo in elementary school, said that “something [was] out, something was wrong with him” and said he didn’t know “if he had any friends”.

Another person who was in the Boy Scouts with Crimo said he lost touch with him after middle school but remembered him as a quiet, soft-spoken skate park kid.

“He was definitely judged a bit for his gothic image,” the former acquaintance told The Daily Beast. “It’s not typical in Highland Park.”

But the same former classmate said that Crimo’s father’s deli, Bob’s Pantry, is a popular spot in Highland Park and that he often sees Crimo behind the counter helping out in the family business. In that sense, he seemed like a normal kid to them.

“He was never a troublemaker” in junior high, the former classmate said in contrast to other interviewees.

Ethan Absler, another student who was a year ahead of Crimo in high school, insisted the suspect had “red flags in behavior.” In particular, Absler said he was very defiant in class, constantly promoting his music, and was “the type of student that teachers realized they needed to discipline in some other way or be more realistic about their behavior.”

But the former classmate still felt it “didn’t suggest anything that he’s capable of anything” like Monday’s shooting. From Absler’s point of view, Crimo led “a secret double life, so to speak, which we knew nothing about”.


Photo by MAX HERMAN/AFP via Getty Images

In high school, Heymann added, Crimo began uploading rap songs to YouTube and performing on social media under the moniker Awake the Rapper. He released several violent music videos online, including a crude animation showing a gunman being killed by police. In another, Crimo is in an empty classroom, dressed in tactical gear and draped in an American flag.

NBC News reported that Crimo had his own Discord channel, which was deactivated after the shooting – and that he frequented a forum dedicated to death, where he posted a beheading video.

Crimo’s posts also showed him wearing a Trump flag like a cape. Another photo of Crimo showed him at a Trump rally dressed as Waldo. But he also liked a Twitter video of President Biden, and in the hours after the attack there was no clear picture of political extremism.

Two of Crimo’s online friends who also produce music told it Rolling Stone that despite struggling with mental health issues and not having many friends in real life, he missed important warning signs.

“I knew something was on his mind,” said Nodfather, an independent producer who was friends with Crimo for years after meeting him on Discord. “To be honest, he’s been self-isolating to a large extent.”

The former high school classmate, who recalled Crimo showing violent content to his classmates, noted that he once got in trouble for putting up stickers on school grounds to promote his music.

While the classmate mostly forgot about Crimo in the years that followed, she said she wondered if he might be the parade gunner when she heard a younger white male suspect was at large.

“It’s really crazy, but I said to someone, ‘That must be someone I know from Highland Park,’ and one of the first things I thought of was Bobby Crimo, because of all the stuff he did “, she said.

– with reporting from Daniel Brown in Illinois Robert Bobby Crimo III, suspected mass shooter at Highland Park, left lane of red flags


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