Highland Park parade shooter was "known to law enforcement"

AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

The 4th of July parade in Highland Park, Illinois had barely gotten started yesterday when shots began ringing out from a rooftop near the parade route. By the time it was finished, six were dead and 38 more were injured, many seriously. The hospitalized victims reportedly range in age from 8 to 85. The police had soon identified a suspect, Robert Crimo III, a self-styled rapper who went by the name “Awake.” Crimo was later spotted in his vehicle and taken into custody following a brief chase. Browsing through his social media history, most of which has since been taken down, authorities seem to be asking how nobody saw this coming. (WGN-TV)

Robert “Bobby” Crimo III, the suspect in the Highland Park parade shooting Monday was taken into custody around Monday evening.

Crimo was a prolific poster online where he apparently went by the name “Awake the Rapper.” His videos foretell his alleged violent acts. In one, he appears to be dramatize a school shooting. In another video, Crimo appears to animate his own demise in a confrontation with police.

His postings informed the operation to arrest him.

Crimo’s attack will no doubt renew the debate about so-called “red flag” laws and what can be done about people who openly provide all sorts of indications that they may become dangerously violent. The shooter’s rap videos seemed to show all of the signs you would expect. One of them depicted a mass shooting at a school while another featured a cartoon version of Crimo being killed in a standoff with law enforcement.

The alleged shooter did more than post rap videos, however. He hosted a Discord channel where his “fans” would engage in discussions of violence and mass shootings. Crimo frequently posted on topics including death, murder, and suicide. He rarely posted about politics, but there were allegedly a couple of photos and videos suggesting he was a fan of Donald Trump.

It would seem that all of the signals were there and had been for several months at least. But what, if anything, could anyone have done to stop him? Thus far, the only thing officials are saying is that Crimo was “known to law enforcement.” But there is no confirmation that he had a criminal record that would have prevented him from purchasing a firearm, though that may come to light later. We also don’t know if he even legally owned the rifle that was recovered from the scene of the shooting.

Let’s assume for the moment that Crimo had not yet been convicted of any crimes serious enough to cause him to fail a background check. Would his rap videos have been sufficient cause for the police to come to disarm him? While investigating unrelated stories in the past, I’ve had cause to peruse some of the more violent rap videos that are constantly making the rounds. Many of them openly lionize the idea of shooting the police, rival gang members, or simply random pedestrians. Can you imagine what would happen if the police began randomly showing up and searching all of those rappers for weapons, particularly when the majority of the singers are Black? The moral outrage would come in a fast and furious fashion.

Crimo appears to be white from the few photos that are available. But in a truly fair justice system, that wouldn’t matter. If performing a song with a violent theme is enough of a reason to deprive someone of their rights, then we are in a new era, no matter what color your skin is. And there simply aren’t enough police on the payroll to monitor every maniac with a violence-themed YouTube channel 24/7. The police need the help of the community in matters such as this. Robert Crimo may have had a small following of “fans” who approved of his rap music and his violent musings. But he must have had some relatives or neighbors who knew this guy was trouble. (His uncle is saying there were “no warning signs,” for whatever that’s worth.) It might be worth getting the word out to the public in the aftermath of this attack, just in case the next Robert Crimo is lurking out there somewhere. And he almost certainly is.