HIGHLAND PARK, Ill. (CBS) — Six people were killed and 24 were seriously wounded when a gunman opened fire from a rooftop during the July 4th parade in north suburban Highland Park on Monday.
Highland Park Police Cmdr. Chris O’Neill said the shooting happened around 10:15 a.m. during the parade.
Police are still searching for the shooter, and are urging people in the area to shelter in place. A high-powered rifle was recovered at the scene.
“We are aggressively looking for the individual who was responsible for this shooting,” said Lake County Major Crimes Task Force spokesman Chris Covelli.
O’Neill said the shooter appears to be a white man, 18 to 20 years old, with long black hair, a small build, and was wearing a white or blue T-shirt.
Covelli confirmed witness reports that the shooter opened fire from the roof of a nearby business.
“By all means, at this point, this appears to be completely random,” Coveilli said.
Covelli said it appeared the shooter targeted both spectators and people marching in the parade.
“We don’t know what his intentions are at this point. So, certainly, we’re not sure of that,” he said.
CBS 2’s Tim McNicholas spoke to the family of Nicolas Toledo, who said he was one of the people who was shot and killed.
“We are all feeling pretty numb. We’re all pretty broken inside,” his granddaughter said.
One witness, Shawn Cotreau, said the shooter was only 10 feet from where shooting happened. He said the gunshots went on for several minutes.
Covelli said the gunman stopped shooting as police officers were approaching the building from which he had opened fire. He said it was not immediately clear how the shooter managed to escape before police got to that rooftop.
“All indications is he was discreet, and he was very difficult to see,” Covelli said.
Hundreds of officers are conducting a search for the shooter, with SWAT teams going door to door. He said there is no indication the gunman has barricaded himself somewhere, or that he is holding any hostages, contrary to some rumors that have circulated since the shooting, according to Covelli.
Police and ambulances from several jurisdictions swarmed the area, with several officers carrying rifles. Video from the scene showed people being placed into ambulances.
Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering said the FBI and Illinois State Police are assisting local law enforcement agencies with the investigation. She also urged people to contact their loved ones to make sure they’re safe.
“Our community was terrorized by an act of violence that has shaken us to our core. Our hearts go out to the families of the victims during this devastating time. On a day that we came together to celebrate community and freedom, we’re instead mourning the loss, the tragic loss of life, and struggling with the terror that was brought upon us,” she said.
Covelli urged anyone who might have pictures or video from the parade or the shooting to contact police to assist with the investigation. He also asked nearby business owners to share any surveillance video they might have from near the scene of the shooting.
“That could help investigators. They may see something in there that may be useful, and allow them to proceed further with the investigation,” he said. “Even if you don’t see anything in there, we would love to be able to take a look at that, so we can further our investigation.”
Several children took shelter in the basement of a nearby business after the shooting.
CBS 2 Digital Producer Elyssa Kaufman was near the scene when she heard what sounded like gunfire. She and her family got on the ground and quickly ran to their car in a nearby parking garage.
“Everyone was was running, hiding and screaming,” she said. “It was extremely terrifying. It was very scary. We are very fortunate, we got out very quickly.”
Video posted on TikTok showed the Highland Park High School band running after shots were fired.
Maya Spector was preparing to march at the parade with her daughter. “We literally ran home,” she said. “People were running and just trying to get out of the area.”
“My daughter was panicked and traumatized.”
Some witnesses reported up to 20 shots.
Highland Park’s Mayor Nancy Rotering said the rest of the July 4 festival has been canceled.
Neighboring Deerfield also canceled its events “due to a shooting in Highland Park.” Evanston has also canceled its parade.
Witnesses posted similar accounts of sounds similar to gunfire and people running.
Another witness took photos of chairs left behind after people fled.
Illinois State Sen. Julie Morrison (D-Lake Forest) said she was at the parade with her family, and had just decorated the car she was riding in for the parade, when they heard the gunfire.
“We heard, I heard pops. Honestly, I initially thought it was fireworks. It never occurred to me that in downtown Highland Park, on the 4th of July, there would be gunshots, but all of a sudden, a couple women started running back towards us, and then it was almost like a wave of people, and they were crying, and screaming. They said there’s an active shooter, and people have been shot. We all just kind of froze in our tracks. It was hard to even believe,” she said.
In a statement, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said, “The tragedy unfolding in Highland Park is devastating.”
“I have been in contact with Mayor Rotering and have offered our support, and the Chicago Police Department is providing assistance. We grieve with the families of the deceased and injured as well as the entire Highland Park community. Law enforcement is working hard to bring the shooter into custody. If anyone has information, we encourage them to call 911 and report what you know,” she added.
Gov. JB Pritzker issued the following statement about the mass shooting:
“Today, I ask all Illinoisans to pray for the families who have been devastated by the evil unleashed this morning in Highland Park, for those who have lost loved ones and for those who have been injured. I also ask that we all pray for our first responders at all levels of government who are actively working to bring the suspect into custody, and whose bravery undoubtedly saved innocent lives on the scene.
“There are no words for the kind of monster who lies in wait and fires into a crowd of families with children celebrating a holiday with their community. There are no words for the kind of evil that robs our neighbors of their hopes, their dreams, their futures. There are no words I can offer to lift the pain of those they leave behind. Please know that our state grieves with you, that MK and I grieve with you.
“But grief will not bring the victims back, and prayers alone will not put a stop to the terror of rampant gun violence in our country.
“I will stand firm with Illinoisans and Americans: we must – and we will – end this plague of gun violence.”