What To Know Today

Highland Park shooter charged with seven counts of murder. The 21-year-old is accused of killing seven people and injuring more than three dozen others, ranging from ages 8 to 85. The shooting during a July 4th parade was a “premeditated and calculated attack,” Lake County State’s Attorney Eric Rinehart said as he announced the charges. Authorities said the suspect meticulously planned the attack, but they had not identified a motive or indicated that the attack was ideologically or racially motivated. Police said the shooter fired more than 70 rounds using a high-powered rifle. The shooter’s dark and violent online trail. Much of it was linked to a musical alias through which he shared videos that included depicting shootings and other violent imagery. “It was pretty clear that this suspect had a history online of glorifying and fantasizing about violence, and to me that sends a red flag on top of a red flag,” Jared Holt, an extremism expert, told NPR.

Police previously investigated, removed knives from the suspect’s home. In April 2019, an emergency call from a family member reported that he had attempted suicide. The following September, police removed 16 knives, a dagger, and a sword from his home after a family member called the police claiming the suspect threatened to “kill everyone,” according to a spokesperson at the time, who added that no arrest was made due to a lack of probable cause and no signed complaints from the gunman’s family. Illinois is one of 19 states with a red flag law, but no such order was apparently called for in his case.

The suspect legally bought the gun he used after those incidents. A Lake County Sheriff’s spokesperson said the suspect legally bought five firearms in the state before he turned 21, including two rifles, one of which he allegedly used in the shooting. The suspect successfully applied for a state firearm owner’s identification card (FOID), which is required to possess guns in the state, about three months after the September 2019 incident. Because he was under 21, the suspect’s father sponsored his FOID application. The Illinois State Police said they received a danger warning from Highland Park Police about the suspect three months before he applied for his card, but “there was insufficient basis to establish a clear and present danger and deny the FOID application.” The Chicago Tribune has a more in-depth look at that timeline here. 

Remembering the victims. They ranged from 35 to 88 and were identified as:

  • Stephen Straus, 88, a husband, father of two, grandfather of four, and a financial adviser who still worked out of his office in Chicago, his grandchildren said. “The way he lived life, you’d think he was still middle-aged,” one of them, Maxwell Straus, said. 
  • Nicolas Toledo-Zaragoza, 78, the father of eight children who had recently come from Mexico to Highland Park. “We only wish that he’s remembered as a great person, a hard-working man, a great father and grandfather, charismatic, fun, a fighter and adventurer,” said Xochil Toledo, one of his granddaughters.
  • Katherine Goldstein, 64, a wife and mother of two daughters, was remembered by family and friends as a joyous and kind friend to everyone she met, a loving mother, and a passionate person who loved birding, photography, cooking, travel, and much more. 
  • Jacquelyn “Jacki” Sundheim, 63, of Highland Park, was a life-long congregant and staff member of North Shore Congregation Israel, the synagogue said in a statement. “Jacki’s work, kindness and warmth touched us all,” the synagogue said. “There are no words sufficient to express the depth of our grief for Jacki’s death and sympathy for her family and loved ones.”
  • Irina McCarthy, 35, and Kevin McCarthy, 37, were at the parade with their 2-year-old son Aiden. Irina had immigrated to the United States from Russia with her family, and worked in digital marketing in the pharmaceutical industry. Kevin worked for a gene therapy startup. Michael Levberg, the toddler’s grandfather, said Kevin died while shielding Aiden. “They were crazy about their child,” he added. “They were planning two.” A GoFundMe page was set up for the toddler.

Authorities said an unidentified seventh person succumbed to their injuries at a local hospital.

Residents mourn the victims and the high costs of gun violence. Locals in Highland Park — a largely white community of about 30,000, where about one-third of residents are Jewish — gathered at several vigils on Tuesday. “Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief, but do justly now,” said the reverend Quincy Worthington of Highland Park Presbyterian Church during one such memorial, quoting from the Talmud. Alongside grief and solidarity, others expressed resignation. “The reality is until things change, there’s a chance you’re going to be somewhere else in a few weeks, having this exact same conversation,” resident Paras Parekh said at one vigil.

Local synagogue reportedly turned the suspect away from an April Passover service. “The rabbi recognized him from pictures as the same individual who visited the synagogue in April,” said Michael Masters, the CEO of Secure Community Network, which provides security to Jewish organizations. Masters added that his group had not identified anything to suggest Monday’s shooting was motivated by anti-Semitism.

Highland Park was one of more than a dozen mass shootings over the Independence Day weekend. From Friday through Tuesday, there were at least 20 incidents that left four or more people injured, according to the Gun Violence Archive. Also on Monday, five people were injured in a shooting on Chicago’s South Side, while in nearby Gary, Indiana, a shooting at a block party on Tuesday left three people dead and seven others wounded. “The blood of our beloved community members has saturated the ground, not just in Highland Park, but every day in Black and brown communities in Chicago,” said the Reverend Ciera Bates-Chamberlain, executive director of Live Free Illinois, a faith-based organization operating in the state. “We are in the midst of an urgent crisis.”

NEW from THE TRACE: After her sister’s suicide, her work became saving others’ lives. Kelly Asher-Smalt believes her sister’s life could have been saved. Now, with a community program in Erie County, New York, she advocates for keeping firearms out of reach of people at risk of harming themselves. Trace contributor Camalot Todd has that story here. [Here’s where to find help if you’re experiencing suicidal thoughts or depression.]

Data Point

4 — the number of mass shootings in Illinois, including in Highland Park, since Friday. [Gun Violence Archive]