Robert Crimo III, accused in July 4th parade mass shooting, backs out of plea deal in court hearing | CNN (2024)

Robert Crimo III, accused in July 4th parade mass shooting, backs out of plea deal in court hearing | CNN (1)

Robert E. Crimo III, left, talks to Lake Count assistant public defender Anton Trizna during the hearing on Wednesday, June 26, 2024.

Robert Crimo III, the man accused of opening fire from a rooftop onto Fourth of July parade revelers in Highland Park, Illinois, two years ago,killing seven peopleand injuring dozens, backed out of a proposed plea deal in a dramatic court hearing Wednesday.

In court, prosecutors said they and Crimo had agreed to a deal in which Crimo would plead guilty to seven murder counts and 48 counts of aggravated battery, one for each named victim in the indictment. In exchange, he agreed to be sentenced to natural life in prison, and the rest of the charges would be dismissed.

The judge then asked Crimo, who was brought into the room in a wheelchair, whether he accepted the plea deal, but he did not respond. His attorneys asked the court for a recess to discuss the deal with him further, and they then left the courtroom.

When they returned, the judge again asked Crimo whether he wished to go forward with the plea deal, and he said “No.”

The judge then tentatively set a trial for February 25, 2025.

Victims’ family members and attorneys expressed their frustrations outside court Wednesday.

“We came to court today in hopes that we could put this out of our minds,” said Leah Sundheim, the daughter of victim Jacquelyn Sundheim. “We have the 4th of July coming up, and it will be two years, and all I wanted was to be able to fully grieve my mom without the looming trial, knowing he was going to spend the rest of his life in jail, and instead we were yet again shown his complete and blatant disregard for humans, for anyone, for all of us, in that courtroom.”

Robert E. Crimo III, is escorted into a courtroom during a case management conference before Judge Victoria A. Rossetti at the Lake County Courthouse on Monday. Nam Y. Huh/Pool/AP Related article Man accused of killing 7 people at Fourth of July parade wants to represent himself

Crimo previously pleaded not guilty to 21 counts of first-degree murder – three for each deceased victim – as well as 48 counts of attempted murder and 48 counts of aggravated battery with a firearm for each victim struck by a bullet, bullet fragment or shrapnel, the prosecutor’s office said. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of life in prison, as Illinois does not have the death penalty.

The charges stem from the mass shooting in Highland Park, a wealthy suburb north of Chicago, at an Independence Day parade just after 10 a.m. The shooter was perched on a rooftop overlooking the parade route and used a high-powered rifle “similar to an AR-15” to fire more than 70 rounds into the crowd, sending hundreds of attendees fleeing in terror, authorities said.

Crimo, 21 at the time, dressed in women’s clothingto conceal his identity and used makeup to cover his tattoos during the shooting, according to investigators. Afterward, he allegedly left the roof and blended in with the fleeing crowd, sparking a regional hunt for his whereabouts.

He was arrested after a brief car chase in nearby Lake Forest later that day. He admitted he carried out the attack and said he emptied two 30-round magazines before loading the weapon with a third and continuing to fire, authorities said in court.

The attack left seven people dead, including five people over the age of 60. The victims were Katherine Goldstein, 64; Irina McCarthy, 35; Kevin McCarthy, 37; Jacquelyn Sundheim, 63; Stephen Straus, 88; Nicolas Toledo-Zaragoza, 78; and Eduardo Uvaldo, 69.

Another 48 people were injured, including an 8-year-old boy who was paralyzed by a shot to the back.

Attorneys and victims’ families slam hearing

Robert Crimo III, accused in July 4th parade mass shooting, backs out of plea deal in court hearing | CNN (3)

A police officer walks down Central Avenue in Highland Park, Illinois, on July 4, 2022, after a shooter opened fire at the Fourth of July parade.

This is not the first time Crimo has reversed himself on a key courtroom issue. In December, he asked to represent himself at trial, but then backed off that request and asked for a public defender less than a month later, according to CNN affiliate WLS.

Outside court after Wednesday’s hearing, several victims’ families and their attorneys criticized Crimo and suggested he knew beforehand he would back out of the deal.

“He is evil and manipulative and brought us here today probably knowing what he was going to do,” Leah Sundheim said.

Karina Mendez, the daughter of victim Eduardo Uvaldo, said she had been hoping for the best but knew it was not a done deal.

“I knew that could happen,” she said. “He’s been playing a lot of games.”

WBBM Related article Highland Park marks year since July 4th parade shootings with moment of silence

Antonio Romanucci, an attorney who represents several victims’ families in civil suits, said Crimo was continuing to carry out a “reign of terror.”

“This was a calculated effort on his part to continue the suffering that our clients are going through,” he said.

He also acknowledged that those in court Wednesday had some skepticism about the plea deal.

“I know that there was a lot of disappointment and shock in the room when he said the word, ‘No,’ but to say that we were all entirely surprised by him, I think that would not be true, because we’ve seen him do these things before,” he said.

“That was his opportunity to put his thumb in everyone’s eye that was in that courtroom because he brought them in there.”

Lake County State’s Attorney Eric Rinehart told reporters his team had been working with the victims and survivors to prepare for the hearing.

“We are available for them not only throughout the rest of the day, but until this goes to trial,” Rinehart said. “We will continue to support them. We will be ready for trial.”

Shooter legally purchased weapons despite run-ins with police

Robert Crimo III, accused in July 4th parade mass shooting, backs out of plea deal in court hearing | CNN (5)

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'Like a battle zone': Witness describes scary moment shots rang out at Highland Park parade

01:39 - Source: CNN

The shooter legally purchased multiple weapons, including the one used in the attack, even though he had two encounters with police in 2019 related to threats to himself and others, according to authorities.

Officers performed a welfare check on Crimo III in April 2019, after he “attempted to commit suicide by machete,” a police report states. An attorney for his parents has disputed details of the incidents described in police reports.

Police returned to the home in September 2019 after a family member reported Crimo III said he was going to kill everyone, directing the threat at those in his home, according to a police report. Officers confiscated several knives from Crimo III’s closet, but hisfather retrieved them from the police stationlater that day, per the report.

The father of the suspect in the deadly Highland Park parade shooting in July is being charged with a felony, prosecutors announced Friday.Robert Crimo, Jr., is charged with seven counts of felony reckless conduct, Lake County Stateís Attorney Eric Rinehart said. The prosecutor said the charges are based on the elder Crimo signing an application for his son to receive a state Firearm Ownerís Identification Card. Rinehart said the alleged shooter would not have been able to obtain the card without a parentís assistance because he is under the age of 21.ìHe knew what he knew, and he signed the form anyway,î said Rinehart. ìThis was criminally reckless and a contributing cause to the bodily harm suffered by the victims on July 4th.î Robert Crimo III is accused of opening fire on the July 4 parade. He has entered not guilty pleas to 117 criminal charges, including 21 counts of first-degree murder, with a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted.Crimo III turned himself in to law enforcement Friday, Rinehart said, and will have a bond hearing Saturday. The charges carry a possible prison sentence of up to three years. Lake County Sheriff's Office Related article Father of Highland Park shooting suspect pleads guilty to misdemeanor reckless conduct charges in deal with prosecutors

Still, Crimo III bought five guns, including two rifles, in the years after the September 2019 visit from police, according to Chris Covelli, a spokesperson for the Lake County Major Crimes Task Force.

The shooter’s father, Robert Crimo Jr., pleaded guilty last November to seven counts of misdemeanor reckless conduct for signing his son’s applicationfor anIllinois Firearm Owners Identification cardin 2019, months after the police reports about his concerning behavior. The card is required for gun purchases in Illinois, and people under 21 need a guardian to sign the application.

As part of the plea deal, Crimo Jr. was sentenced to 60 days in jail and two years of probation, and he agreed to testify against his son if called.

Prior to the shooting, Crimo III posted music on several major streaming platforms under the pseudonym Awake the Rapper, and he apparently made and posted music videos online featuring ominous lyrics and animated scenes of gun violence.

In one video entitled “Are you Awake,” a cartoon animation of a stick-figure shooter resembling the suspect’s appearance is seen wearing tactical gear and carrying out an attack with a rifle. Crimo, seen with multicolored hair and face tattoos, narrates, “I need to just do it. It is my destiny.”

In January 2023, Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker signed into law legislation that bans the sale of assault-style rifles and high-capacity magazines. The law also requires people who already own semi-automatic rifles to register their ownership. In November 2023, the Illinois Supreme Court upheld the law in a 4-3 ruling aftermonths of legal challenges, during which the Supreme Court had declined to intervene.

CNN’s Brad Parks, Lauren Mascarenhas,Chris Boyette, Casey Tolan and Daniel A. Medina contributed to this report.

This story has been updated with additional information.

Correction:An earlier version of this story understated the number of people injured in the shooting. It was 48.

Robert Crimo III, accused in July 4th parade mass shooting, backs out of plea deal in court hearing | CNN (2024)
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