They never thought they wouldn’t be safe there – at an Independence Day parade, a family celebration in one of the many suburbs of the USA. But a gunman caused a massacre.
Investigators in the United States are puzzling over the motive of the perpetrator after the bloody crime that killed at least six people at a national holiday parade.
A young man is suspected of shooting indiscriminately at a crowd of people celebrating with a “powerful rifle” from the roof of a commercial building. The crime took place in a suburb of Chicago, Illinois. Several music videos posted on the internet showing scenes of gun violence are attributed to the suspect. He was arrested hours after the crime.
Numerous residents gathered in the center of the 30,000-inhabitant city of Highland Park on the morning of July 4th, when Independence Day is celebrated nationwide. They wanted to celebrate together. But the first shots were fired shortly after the parade began. Eyewitnesses later reported in US media that they initially thought the noise was fireworks. “I have no words to describe the type of monster that lies in wait and shoots into a crowd of families with children,” state Gov. Jay Robert Pritzker wrote on Twitter.
Patients aged 8 to 85 years
About two dozen injured were taken to hospitals, police said. A doctor at a hospital said it treated patients aged 8 to 85 with gunshot wounds, including several children. An eyewitness named Miles Zaremski told CNN that he saw several injured and lifeless people lying on the ground. “It was heartbreaking.” He heard around 30 pops. People fled the parade. “It was just chaotic.”
According to media reports, the suspected shooter could be identified from the weapon. Investigators found DNA traces on the gun that the suspect left at the scene, US broadcaster NBC News reported.
Deed planned for weeks
According to new police findings, the arrested person had been planning his crime for weeks. According to the current state of knowledge, he bought his weapon, a “powerful rifle”, legally in the state of Illinois, said a police spokesman. The young man wore typical women’s clothing during his crime in order to camouflage himself and not attract attention among the fleeing people, the police said. He fired more than 70 shots with his gun.
An uncle of the arrested suspect told CNN that he saw no warning signs of such violence. “I am devastated. I saw no indication that he would do such a thing.” He has never seen his nephew behave violently or behave in a worrying way. “I can’t say anything bad about him.” He described the young man as a withdrawn person: “He is a quiet child. He’s usually alone. He’s a lonely, quiet person, he keeps everything to himself.”
According to US media, the suspect is said to have tried to make a name for himself as a rapper. Several social media accounts believed to be linked to the young man have since been blocked. In archived versions – apparently self-made – videos of the alleged shooter can be seen. They were published under a pseudonym. A video uploaded about a year ago shows a comic strip in which several scenes of shootings can be seen. At one point, a gunman lies on the ground in a pool of blood, surrounded by police officers with drawn guns.
Another video shows a man with brightly colored hair and several tattoos, including on his face. He can be seen in a room that is supposed to represent a classroom. Towards the end of the video, he poses in front of a blackboard with a protective helmet and a type of combat vest. He holds up a US flag. Investigators had published a mug shot of the suspect on Twitter. Authorities initially gave his age as 22, but an FBI bulletin later said he was 21.
Massive levels of gun violence in the United States
“I grew up in Highland Park and this parade is a highlight of the year for so many families,” wrote US actress Rachel Brosnahan (“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”) on Twitter. She also shared memories of her youth in Highland Park on her Instagram story. “I never thought about the fact that I couldn’t be safe there.”
The US has long struggled with gargantuan levels of gun violence. At the end of May, an 18-year-old gunman massacred an elementary school in Texas: he killed 19 children and 2 teachers in the small town of Uvalde before being shot dead by the police. Just over a week earlier, an 18-year-old had shot ten people in Buffalo, New York state, investigators assume a racist motive.
The killing sprees reignited the discussion about stricter gun laws. Firearms are often readily available in the United States. According to the CDC, nearly 20,000 people were shot nationwide in 2020 — more than 50 a day.
Biden has flags flown at half-staff
After the crime in Highland Park, the flags in the United States are flown at half-staff. Out of respect for the victims of the crime, this applies to the White House, all public buildings and military bases in the United States as well as to US embassies and consulates worldwide up to and including Saturday, said US President Joe Biden.
Biden and his Democrats have long called for tougher gun laws. However, far-reaching reforms repeatedly fail due to the resistance of the Republicans in Congress and the influence of the powerful gun lobby organization NRA.
Last month, buoyed by the Texas shootings and other bloody crimes, Congress passed a bipartisan gun control law, but it fell far short of Biden’s proposed reforms. Experts rated the tightening of gun laws as the most important since the mid-1990s. In terms of content, however, the law is only a non-partisan minimal compromise that critics have accused of being completely inadequate.
The law, signed by Biden late last month, provides for more intensive screening of gun buyers under the age of 21. It is also about expanding state laws to take weapons away from potential threats. Illegal arms trafficking should be punishable at the federal level. In addition, billions are to flow into mental health care and anti-violence programs. Additional funds are also earmarked for the safety of schools. The ban on assault rifles demanded by Biden and his Democrats is missing from the law.