CHICAGO — The father of an Illinois man charged with killing seven people in a mass shooting at a July 4 parade in a Chicago suburb has been charged with seven felony counts of reckless conduct, prosecutors announced Friday.
Lake County State's Attorney Eric Rinehart said Robert Crimo Jr. surrendered to police on Friday and will have a bond hearing Saturday. Rinehart said the charges are based on Crimo sponsoring his then 19-year-old son's application for a gun license in 2019.
"Parents and guardians are in the best position to decide whether their teenagers should have a weapon," Rinehart said. "In this case, the system failed when Robert Crimo Jr. sponsored his son. He knew what he knew and he signed the form anyway."
Rinehart wouldn't further discuss what led his office to file the charges this week. Authorities have previously said the accused shooter, Robert Crimo III, attempted suicide by machete in April 2019 and in September 2019 was accused by a family member of making threats to "kill everyone."
Both those reports came months before Crimo Jr. sponsored his son's application in December 2019.
Chicago-area attorney George M. Gomez said by phone Friday that he was representing Robert Crimo Jr. in the newly announced criminal case. He declined to answer questions but emailed a statement that described the charges as "baseless and unprecedented."
"This decision should alarm every single parent in the United States of America who according to the Lake County State's Attorney knows exactly what is going on with their 19 year old adult children and can be held criminally liable for actions taken nearly three years later," the statement from Gomez said. "These charges are absurd and we will fight them every step of the way.
Gomez said Crimo Jr. "continues to sympathize and feel terrible for the individuals and families who were injured and lost loved ones," but the attorney called the charges "politically motivated and a distraction from the real change that needs to happen in this country."
A grand jury in July indicted Robert Crimo III on 21 first-degree murder counts, 48 counts of attempted murder and 48 counts of aggravated battery, representing the seven people killed and dozens wounded in the attack on a beloved holiday event in Highland Park.
Until Friday, Rinehart had refused to discuss whether the man's parents could face charges connected to the killings.
Legal experts have said it's rare for an accused shooter's parent or guardian to face charges — in part because it's difficult to prove such charges.
In one notable exception, a Michigan prosecutor last year filed involuntary manslaughter charges against the parents of a teen accused of fatally shooting four students at his high school. A January trial date in that case has been delayed while the state appeals court considers an appeal by the parents.
Authorities have previously said that Illinois State Police reviewed Crimo III's December 2019 gun license application and found no reason to deny it because he had no arrests, no criminal record, no serious mental health problems, no orders of protection and no other behavior that would disqualify him.
But following the parade shooting, public records showed that Crimo III attempted suicide by machete in April 2019, according to a police report obtained by The Associated Press that noted a "history of attempts."
In September 2019, police received a report from a family member that Crimo III had a collection of knives and had threatened to "kill everyone."
Both Crimo III and his mother disputed the threat of violence at the time. Police have said father Robert Crimo Jr. later told investigators the knives belonged to him, and authorities returned them.
Robert Crimo Jr. has shown up at several pretrial hearings for his son this year, nodding in greeting when he son entered the courtroom shackled and flanked by guards. The father is a longtime resident of Highland Park and a familiar face around the city, where he was once a mayoral candidate and was well known for operating convenience stores.
In media interviews after the shooting, Robert Crimo Jr. had said he did not expect to face charges and did not believe he did anything wrong by helping his son get a gun license through the state's established process. [Copyright 2022 NPR]