Why did the Highland Park shooter's father help him get a gun?

A sequel to last night’s post about “red flags.” In 2019 police were twice called to the suspect’s house, once because he was allegedly suicidal and the other time because he was supposedly threatening to “kill everyone.” In the latter case, they confiscated 16 knives but filed no charges.

A few months later, the suspect applied for a “Firearm Owners Identification” (FOID) card in Illinois that would allow him to purchase a gun. Because he was under 21, he needed parental consent to do so.

Luckily for him and unluckily for the residents of Highland Park, that parental consent was given. A two-year-old there will grow up without parents of his own as a result.

It’s not clear if the suspect’s father remains liable for any damages now that the suspect is over 21. If he bought the gun that was used in the shooting before he came of age, which was possible only because of his father’s consent, then arguably yes. You can be sure that some of the victims of the shooting are researching the question, as lawsuits against the parents of a mass shooter have become more common in recent years as a way to force families to be more attentive to the violent urges of their troubled members.

The suspect’s parents have already retained a lawyer, in fact, who’s busy doing what lawyers do — shifting blame away from his clients:

But what about all the red flags? Why would his father consent to the FOID application after the incident with the knives?

Greenberg has an answer. He told the Chicago Tribune that the suspect “lived with his mother at the time of the purported threats and the knives’ confiscation” and that his “father did not know about the incident when he sponsored his son’s FOID application a few months later.” Uh, really? His mother never gave his father a heads up that the cops had been called to her home because someone there felt threatened by his son? Police who responded to that incident were sufficiently alarmed to have alerted the Illinois State Police, who are in charge of issuing FOID cards.

Local police also claimed, however, that the suspect said no when he was asked during that encounter whether he wanted to hurt anyone. In fact, per the Chicago Sun-Times, “his father said the knives were his and were being stored in his son’s closet for safekeeping. Based on that information, the Highland Park police returned the knives to the father the same day.”

So the suspect’s father wasn’t living with the family anymore — but was storing a collection of more than a dozen knives in a closet in his son’s room at his estranged wife’s home? Does that seem plausible or more like a story that he made up to get his son out of any potential trouble with the law?

We can’t expect parents to notice every red flag, I suppose. But how about one that’s literally painted on the side of their home?

Acquaintances are also coming forward with allegations of red flags although in this case they’re more ambiguous than obvious psycho behavior like torturing animals:

“He was in his own world,” said 22-year-old Nick Pacileo.

“There were a lot of red flags,” added another former Highland Park High School classmate, who asked not to be identified…

“Everybody knew Bobby was off, but he just — he never actually gave signs that he was capable of that degree of violence in my opinion,” Pacileo said…

Crimo “scared me because of the all the violent things he posted,” said the former classmate who asked not to be identified. “His rap and lyrics were very violent and just weird and he kind of scared me.”…

“His YouTube has always been like red flags and scary,” the ex-classmate said. “He would rant about violent stuff on there.”

That’s a hard case. What do you do when someone is “off” and prone to violent imagery in their art but hasn’t given you any reason to believe it’s more than a fantasy or part of their aesthetic? That’s a description of 90 percent of Hollywood screenwriters.

Here’s an interview with Greenberg, the attorney for the suspect’s parents. He claims the suspect wasn’t suicidal in his first encounter with police and never threatened to “kill everyone” in his second, although that might be a bit of slippery lawyering. Maybe the suspect was telling family members one thing and then told the cops something else once they arrived and he was suddenly faced with legal trouble. Greenberg also claims that his parents didn’t follow the suspect on social media and therefore were unaware of the violent rhetoric to which he was prone. But he does admit that the suspect’s father wouldn’t have agreed to let him apply for a FOID card in hindsight, which, uh, yeah.