MIDDLETON, Wis. — Illinois law enforcement agencies shared new details Wednesday into the Highland Park shooting suspect’s trip to the Madison area.
Authorities say suspect Robert Crimo confessed to police that he drove to Madison where he saw another holiday celebration and considered attacking people there as well. The Lake County Major Crimes Task Force says the FBI recovered Crimo’s cell phone in Middleton, a neighboring suburb of Madison.
The owner of an auto body shop on University Ave. tells TMJ4 News that the FBI showed up there Tuesday morning to search the property. Jim Lund says they found the cell phone buried in a pile of dirt at the end of his parking lot.
“I kept asking myself, why here?” Lund said. “Why Middleton? Why on my property?”
Lund said he was off work Monday enjoying Independence Day. He returned to his auto shop the next day to find federal investigators making a connection to his property and the Highland Park shooting suspect.
“They needed my permission to search my property out around the building,” he said.
Lund says the business next door had FBI officials at their office Monday night to search for Crimo’s cell phone. He says it took them several hours before they found it hidden in the ground Tuesday afternoon.
“This is where he buried the phone and this is not my (fake) goose and it’s pointed to right where they found it,” Lund said.
The Lake County Major Crimes Task Force says Crimo confessed to police that when he drove to Madison, he saw a Fourth of July celebration and allegedly thought about committing a second attack.
Deputy Chief and PIO Christopher Covelli says Crimo had a firearm and about 60 rounds of ammunition in his car at the time.
“We don’t have information to suggest he planned on driving to Madison initially to commit another attack,” Covelli said. “We do believe that he was driving around following the first attack and saw the celebration.”
There were several Fourth of July parties and events scheduled for Monday in Madison and suburban communities, but authorities say they don’t know at this time which one Crimo was considering attacking.
Covelli shared what authorities have learned about why Crimo decided against a second shooting.
“Indications are that he hadn’t put enough thought and research into it,” he said.
Authorities say they can’t speak to why Crimo left the Madison area and returned to Illinois where he was arrested on Monday. Covelli says the FBI knew he ditched his phone thanks to the assistance of evidence technicians in Madison.
Back at the auto shop where the phone was recovered, Lund says it’s frightening to think his community could have been grieving too.
“It’s still unbelievable that he was right here and the potential was here and it kind of makes you very nervous that is anybody safe anywhere?” Lund said.
Authorities say the FBI is now going through that cell phone to search for evidence that could be used to further build the state’s case against Crimo.