An “active gunman” opened fire during a July 4 holiday parade in Highland Park, Illinois, killing at least six people and sending 31 others to hospital — and officials said he was still on the run three hours later.
There was a shelter order after the country’s gun violence epidemic turned a family-friendly party in a wealthy Chicago suburb into another terrifying carnage.
“Our community has been terrorized by an act of violence that has shaken us to the core,” said Highland Park mayor Nancy Rotering. “On a day when we came together to celebrate community and freedom, we instead mourn the loss, the tragic loss of life and grapple with the terror inflicted on us.”
The suspect was described as a white male, between the ages of 18 and 20, with longer black hair, a short build and wearing a white or blue T-shirt. His rifle was recovered, but police said he should be considered armed and dangerous.
A witness, Shawn Cotreau, said he saw the gunman on the roof of a business along the parade route, although police have not confirmed this.
“I turned around and everything was on fire, the tree was being pelted with bullets and I could see the gunman,” Cotreau said. CBS Chicago† “It took people 10 to 15 seconds to realize he was really shooting.
“He pointed” [the gun] to the middle of the street, he added. “I felt like the shots went on for minutes, but it didn’t stop.”
Local hospitals said they were treating 31 patients, most of whom had received gunfire, but some were injured in the frantic attempt to flee the shooting.
The parade is a time-honored event in Highland Park, an affluent North Shore community about 25 miles from downtown Chicago. Before 10 a.m., families began to walk along Central Avenue.
The fire trucks thundered past, followed by a marching band. It was then that the shots rang out and at first many in the crowd thought it might have been drums or fireworks.
When realization hit, people grabbed their children and ran to safety – leaving behind chairs, prams and bags.
Witness Miles Zaremski, who has attended dozens of Highland Park parades over the years, told The Daily Beast he was on route when he heard pop pop pop pop.
“I thought, maybe it’s counterproductive. Then there’s another bang, and I said, ‘Oh, somebody’s got to shoot fireworks. And then suddenly there were several explosions.
“And I said, that’s nothing but a rapid-fire, long cannon like an AR-15 or something. And indeed it was. And then there was a massive stampede,” he said.
“I started walking upstairs and thought, oh, maybe I could help or something, which I couldn’t, but I saw blood all over the sidewalk and in the street. I saw bloodied bodies, at least a few, and a child who looked lifeless.
“I think if it can happen in our community, of course it can happen anywhere in this country. And what’s even more sickening is that it happened during our country’s celebration… We’ve seen mass murders in schools, synagogues and churches and nightclubs… It’s disgusting.”