At least six dead in shooting amidst 4 July parade in Chicago suburb

At least six people are dead and 30 were taken to hospitals after a shooting at a July Fourth parade in the Chicago suburb of Highland Park, and officers are searching for a suspect, police said Monday.

The authorities were treating the case as an active shooter situation, with the gunman considered to be “armed and dangerous”. 

Highland Park Police Commander Chris O’Neill, the incident commander on scene, urged people to shelter in place as authorities continued the search.

He said Monday afternoon local time that a “very active apprehension effort” was underway.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported that the parade began around 10 am CDT (5 pm CET) but it was suddenly halted 10 minutes later after shots were fired. A Sun-Times reporter saw blankets placed over three bloodied bodies. Several witnesses told the newspaper that they heard gunfire.

Hundreds of parade-goers — some visibly bloodied — fled the parade route, leaving behind chairs, baby strollers and blankets.

Police told people: “Everybody disperse, please. It is not safe to be here.”

‘Very random, very intentional’

Highland Park Police said authorities are still searching for the suspect, who was described as an 18- to 20-year-old white man with longer black hair. 

Lake County Major Crime Task Force spokesman Christopher Covelli said at a news conference that the gunman apparently used a “high-powered rifle” to fire from a spot atop a building where he was “very difficult to see.” He said the rifle was recovered at the scene.

“Very random, very intentional and a very sad day,” Covelli said.

“You have a tragic mass act of violence that was random here today at a community event where people were gathered to celebrate, and the offender has not been apprehended thus far,” he stated. 

“So, could this happen again? We don’t know what his intentions are at this point, so certainly we’re not sure of that.”

More than 100 law enforcement officers were called to the parade scene or dispatched to find the suspected shooter.

Local news channel ABC7 Chicago reported that the ATF bureau has ordered urgent tracing of when, where, and who purchased the rifle.

Highland Park is a suburban city of about 30,000 residents in the affluent North Shore area of Chicago with no prior cases of mass shootings.

Pools of blood and upturned chairs

Video shot by a Sun-Times journalist after the gunfire rang out shows a band on a float continuing to play as people run past, screaming. A photo posted to social media appeared to show pools of blood near upturned chairs in downtown Highland Park.

Gina Troiani and her son were lined up with his daycare class ready to walk onto the parade route when she heard a loud sound that she believed was fireworks — until she heard people yell about a shooter.

“We just start running in the opposite direction,” she told The Associated Press.

Her 5-year-old son was riding his bike decorated with red and blue curled ribbons. He and other children in the group held small American flags. The city said on its website that the festivities were to include a children’s bike and pet parade.

Troiani said she pushed her son’s bike, running through the neighbourhood to get back to their car.

In a video that Troiani shot on her phone, some of the kids are visibly startled at the loud noise and they scramble to the side of the road as a siren wails nearby.

It was just sort of chaos,” she said. “There were people that got separated from their families, looking for them. Others just dropped their wagons, grabbed their kids and started running.”

Local community ‘shaken to the core’ as Biden expresses shock

US President Joe Biden on Monday said he and first lady Jill Biden were “shocked by the senseless gun violence that has yet again brought grief to an American community on this Independence Day.”

Biden said he had “surged Federal law enforcement to assist in the urgent search for the shooter, who remains at large at this time.”

Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering said the violence “has shaken us to our core,” adding, “On a day that we came together to celebrate community and freedom, we are instead mourning the tragic loss of life and struggling with the terror that was brought upon us.”

Illinois Governor JB Pritzker said in a tweet that he is “closely monitoring the situation in Highland Park” and that Illinois State Police are assisting.

“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 neighbours of their hopes, their dreams, their futures,” Pritzker said in a later statement.

Since the Highland Park attack, a number of other neighbourhoods and suburbs of Chicago have cancelled their 4 July celebrations, including parades and fireworks, out of precaution. The Chicago White Sox also announced on Twitter that a planned post-game fireworks show has been called off due to the shooting.

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