The man accused of shooting and killing seven people and injuring dozens more had contemplated carrying out another attack in the Madison area, police said Wednesday.
Robert E. Crimo III, 22, drove to the Madison area after police say he opened fire with a high-powered rifle in the Chicago suburb of Highland Park during a 4th of July parade. He then left Madison and returned to Illinois, where he was arrested on Tuesday, according to police.
Chris Covelli, a spokesperson for the Lake County Major Crimes Task Force, said during a press briefing on Wednesday that he was armed with 60 rounds while in Madison. Police do not know if he drove to Madison with the intention of committing a mass shooting. But they said indications point to that he had put enough thought and research into it. Police said he was near a celebration in Madison.
Police added that he disposed of his cell phone near University Avenue in Middleton.
"I can't speak to why he decided to come back from Madison. There are indications that he didn't put enough planning forward into committing another attack. There's been some questions about the FBI and their response in Madison. Evidence technicians in Madison. He did dispose of his phone in Madison - the Madison area, in Middleton. That phone has since been recovered," said Covelli.
The owner of this auto shop in Middleton next to Madison, Wis. tells us the FBI found Crimo’s cell phone buried in dirt on the far end of his parking lot. View photos below from TMJ4's Ben Jordan:
Madison Police Chief Shon F. Barnes said during a press briefing Wednesday that around 5 p.m. Tuesday, the FBI contacted Madison police to mobilize their SWAT team; they believed the suspect to be in the area. But while staging a response, Madison police learned the suspect was in custody in Illinois.
"We will never know for certain what stopped him, but I am grateful no innocent lives were taken from our city," said Chief Barnes. He said it is now the time to invest in police training and equipment to keep communities safe.
Authorities say Crimo was armed with a Kel-Tec SUB200 firearm while in Madison.
Covelli said he didn’t want to speculate on motives. "His motivation isn't necessarily clear," the spokesperson said
“I don't want to go specifically into what he told investigators, however, he had some type of affinity towards the number four and seven and inverse was seven four,” the deputy chief said. According to Covelli, Crimo’s affinity “comes from music that he's interested in.”
Covelli said Crimo will go through the intake process at the Lake County Jail. There he will go through criteria questions and will be classified on where he should be placed within the jail.
“Depending on how those questions turn up, he might be placed in an individual cell. That's something that the jail will work on and they go through their internal process,” Covelli said.
PIO Covelli says Crimo was driving around in Madison after #HighlandPark shooting and seriously considered another attack there. Had approx 60 rounds on him at the time.— Andrea Albers (@AndreaAlbersTV) July 6, 2022
Motive still not clear. Covelli will only say Crimo has an affinity for the numbers of 4 and 7. pic.twitter.com/Cq7PEHURMs
Crimo III fired more than 70 rounds with an AR-15 style gun into the crowd and then evaded initial capture by dressing as a woman and blending into the fleeing crowd, police said Tuesday. He was arrested Monday evening after a brief police pursuit.
Officials said Tuesday evening Crimo has officially been charged with seven counts of first-degree murder, and there will be more. On Wednesday a Lake County Court judge decided no bond would be issued for Crimo. His preliminary hearing is scheduled for July 28.
- Highland Park gunman charged with 7 counts of first-degree murder
- Police: Gunman fired 70 plus rounds at July 4 parade, 7 dead
"I don't want to get into how we know he was in Wisconsin, but I do know he traveled to the Madison area before turning around and coming back to Illinois," Deputy Chief Chris Covelli said.
Highland Park is about an hour south of Milwaukee. The Gun Violence Archive reports it was the 309th mass shooting in the country so far this year. The group defines a mass shooting as four or more shot or killed, not including the shooter.
"It is impossible to imagine the pain of this kind of tragedy until it happens in your backyard," said Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering.
Police believe the shooter planned the attack for weeks. Authorities say he bought the gun legally in Illinois.
"During the attack, Crimo was dressed in women's clothing and investigators believe he did this to conceal his facial tattoos and his identity," Covelli said."We do believe Crimo pre-planned this attack for several weeks. He brought a high-powered rifle to this parade, he accessed the roof of a business, and began opening fire on the innocent celebration-goers."
Covelli said Crimo dropped his rifle and he blended in with the crowd as he escaped. Crimo walked to his mother's home who lived in the area and took her car.
Police have not released a timeline of what led up to the shooting, but they did acknowledge that someone tipped the police on where to find the alleged gunman. He was taken into custody after they stopped him at a red light.
One of the people who died Monday was 78-year-old Nicholas Toledo. Relatives described him as a loving man who was creative, adventurous, and funny.
A spokesperson from the hospital said the victims ranged in age from 8 years old to 85, and as many as five of the victims were kids.
Law enforcement said Crimo had prior contact with police twice in 2019. In April 2019, Crimo threatened to take his own life. Covelli said no police action was taken as Crimo was working with mental health professionals. In September 2019, family reported Crimo threatened to kill them and had an extensive collection of knives. Police confiscated 16 knives, a dagger, and a sword then notified Illinois State Police. Authorities said they did not have cause to arrest Crimo and at the time there was no information that he possessed any firearms.
WATCH: Dwaun Nicholas drove about 40 minutes to be in Highland Park Wednesday morning. He is part of the Crisis Team at Affordable Recovery based in Blue Island, Illinois. He wanted to offer his help in steering people to mental health support services.
Illinois State Police said back then Crimo did not have a FOID card, a legal requirement in Illinois to own a gun.
Covelli said it's believed Crimo purchased his guns in 2020 and 2021.
TMJ4 News was on scene in Highland Park Tuesday. Crews saw the FBI walking through the street, taking photos and cleaning up items like chairs, children's bikes, and American flags. The FBI put everything left behind into a large truck.
Crews also observed numerous people come to look and see the scene for themselves. People on scene told TMJ4 News they wanted to witness the aftermath to think about what some of their friends and even family members felt when they were there.
Tuesday evening, Vice President Kamala Harris visited Highland Park to speak about the mass shooting.
During her visit, Harris renewed her call for an assault weapons ban.
"We have to be smarter as a country in terms of who has access to what, in particular assault weapons," Harris said.
As the alleged gunman goes through the justice system, Highland Park, the community, goes through stages of grief.
A vigil was held at Highland Park Presbyterian Church. There were moments of mourning and remembrance. Outside, there were therapy dogs waiting for those in mourning.
“We were part of the parade yesterday and we all ran and it was hard," said Susan Birnberg.
She and her boys, Micah and Colby were also outside the church, selling snow cones to raise money to help. They too had to run to safety.