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Police searching the downtown area of the Chicago suburb of Highland Park. AP/PA Images
4 july shooting

At least six people dead after shooting at Chicago suburb's Fourth of July parade

Police said authorities were still searching for the suspect and called it an active incident.

LAST UPDATE | Jul 4th 2022, 10:07 PM

AT LEAST SIX people died and 24 were wounded in a shooting at a Fourth of July parade in a Chicago suburb, US police have said.

The suspect, who had reportedly fired from a concealed spot on a rooftop, remains on the loose hours later as authorities search the area.

Highland Park police commander Chris O’Neill, the incident commander at the scene, urged people to shelter in place as authorities search for the suspect.

O’Neill described the suspect as a white man aged between 18 and 20 years old and wearing a white or blue T-shirt.

Lake County major crime taskforce spokesman Christopher Covelli said at a news conference that the gunman apparently opened fire on parade-goers from a rooftop using a rifle that was recovered at the scene.

Covelli said police believe there was only one gunman and warned that he should still be considered armed and dangerous.

Police have not released any details about the victims or wounded.

US President Joe Biden 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”.

He said he had “surged Federal law enforcement to assist in the urgent search for the shooter”. 

The parade began at about 10am local time, but it was suddenly halted about 10 minutes later after shots were fired.

Hundreds of parade-goers, some visibly bloodied, fled the parade route, leaving behind chairs, pushchairs, bicycles and blankets.

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

Highland Park Police initially said in a statement that five people had been killed and 19 people were taken to hospital, but those numbers were revised soon after at the news conference.

Speaking to reporters, Mayor of Highland Park Nancy Rotering said the community has been “terrorised 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 tragic loss of life and struggling with the terror that was brought upon us,” she said.

“At this point, we know that six people have lost their lives and we are grieving for them and their families.”

The Chicago Police Department is assisting in the search of the suspect.

In a statement on Twitter, Chicago Police Superintendent David O. Brown said: “Our hearts go out to the people of Highland Park and all those affected by today’s tragic events.

“We are working to provide assistance to the Highland Park Police Department, including from the air with a CPD helicopter. While there is no actionable intelligence to suggest a threat to Chicago, we will continue to monitor the situation and deploy resources as necessary.

“Senseless gun violence is a national epidemic and has no place anywhere so we must keep fighting to end it.”

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.

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

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

‘Chaos’

Her five-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 area to get back to their car.

In a video that she shot on her phone, some of the children 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.”

Illinois governor J.B. Pritzker said in a tweet that he is “closely monitoring the situation in Highland Park” and that Illinois state police are assisting.

Debbie Glickman, a Highland Park resident, said she was on a parade float with co-workers and the group was preparing to turn on to the main route when she saw people running from the area.

“People started saying ‘There’s a shooter, there’s a shooter, there’s a shooter’,” Glickman told the Associated Press. “So we just ran. We just ran. It’s like mass chaos down there.”

“I’m so freaked out,” she said. “It’s just so sad.”

‘Enough is enough’

US Representative Brad Schneider, who was at the parade, said on Twitter that “a shooter struck in Highland Park during the Independence Day parade.”

“Hearing of loss of life and others injured. My condolences to the family and loved ones; my prayers for the injured and for my community,” he wrote, adding: “Enough is enough!”

The shooting is part of a wave of gun violence plaguing the United States, where approximately 40,000 deaths a year are caused by firearms, including suicides, according to the Gun Violence Archive website.

The debate over gun control — a deeply divisive issue in the country – was reignited by two massacres in May that saw 10 Black supermarket shoppers gunned down in upstate New York and 21 people, mostly young children, slain at an elementary school in Texas.

Congress passed the first significant bill on gun safety in decades in the wake of those killings. President Biden signed it into law in late June, saying that while it falls short of what is really needed, it will still save lives.

But a day earlier, proponents of tougher firearms laws suffered a setback when the US Supreme Court ruled that Americans have a fundamental right to carry a handgun in public, a landmark decision with far-reaching implications for states and cities across the country trying to rein in gun violence.

With reporting by Jane Moore and © AFP 2022

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