A man has been taken into police custody following a manhunt in the wake of the latest mass shooting in the United States that targeted an Independence Day parade in a Chicago suburb, the authorities said.
At least six people were killed and 30 were taken to hospitals after a gunman on a rooftop opened fire on the July Fourth parade in Highland Park, an affluent community on Chicago’s north shore.
Highland Park Police Chief Lou Jogmen said a police officer pulled over Robert E. Crimo III about five miles (eight kilometres) north of the shooting scene.
The arrest came several hours after police released the man's photo and an image of his silver Honda Fit, and warned the public that he was likely armed and dangerous. Authorities initially said he was 22, but an FBI bulletin and Crimo's social media said he was 21.
Police declined to immediately identify Crimo as a suspect but said identifying him as a person of interest, sharing his name and other information publicly was a serious step.
Earlier, the police commander on the scene urged people to shelter in place as authorities continued the search for the suspect, who was described as an 18- to 20-year-old white man with long black hair.
'Uniquely American plague'
“It is devastating that a celebration of America was ripped apart by our uniquely American plague,” Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker said at a news conference.
“I’m furious because it does not have to be this way... while we celebrate the Fourth of July just once a year, mass shootings have become a weekly — yes, weekly — American tradition.”
The Chicago Sun-Times reported that the holiday parade began around 10 am CDT (5 pm CET) but it was suddenly halted 10 minutes later after shots were fired. A Sun-Times reporter saw blankets placed over three bloodied bodies. Several witnesses told the newspaper that they heard gunfire.
The shooting happened at a spot on the parade route where many residents had staked out prime viewing points early in the day for the annual celebration.
Dozens of bullets sent hundreds of parade-goers — some visibly bloodied — fleeing the parade route, leaving behind chairs, baby strollers and blankets.
Police told people: "Everybody disperse, please. It is not safe to be here."
Five of those killed — all adults — died at the scene, while a sixth died later in hospital, the local coroner said. Police have not released details of the wounded.
A Mexican diplomat has tweeted that one of those killed was a Mexican national, and two other Mexicans were wounded.
'Very random, very intentional'
Lake County Major Crime Task Force spokesman Christopher Covelli said at a news conference that the gunman apparently used a “high-powered rifle” to fire from a spot atop a building where he was “very difficult to see.” He said the rifle was recovered at the scene.
“Very random, very intentional and a very sad day,” Covelli said.
“You have a tragic mass act of violence that was random here today at a community event where people were gathered to celebrate, and the offender has not been apprehended thus far,” he stated.
“So, could this happen again? We don’t know what his intentions are at this point, so certainly we’re not sure of that.”
More than 100 law enforcement officers were called to the parade scene or dispatched to find the suspected shooter.
Local news channel ABC7 Chicago reported that the ATF bureau has ordered urgent tracing of when, where, and who purchased the rifle.
Highland Park is a suburban city of about 30,000 residents in the affluent North Shore area of Chicago with no prior cases of mass shootings.
Pools of blood and upturned chairs
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. A photo posted to social media appeared to show pools of blood near upturned chairs in downtown Highland Park.
Gina Troiani and her son were lined up with his daycare class ready to walk onto the parade route when she heard a loud sound that she believed was fireworks — until she heard people yell about a shooter.
"We just start running in the opposite direction," she told The Associated Press.
Her 5-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 neighbourhood to get back to their car.
In a video that Troiani shot on her phone, some of the kids 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."
Local community 'shaken to the core' as Biden expresses shock
US President Joe Biden on Monday 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.”
Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering said the violence “has shaken us to our core,” adding, "On a day that we came together to celebrate community and freedom, we are instead mourning the tragic loss of life and struggling with the terror that was brought upon us.”
"There are no words for the kind of monster who lies in wait and fires into a crowd of families with children celebrating a holiday with their community. There are no words for the kind of evil that robs our neighbours of their hopes, their dreams, their futures," JB Pritzker, the Illinois Governor, said in an earlier statement.
After the Highland Park attack, a number of other neighbourhoods and suburbs of Chicago cancelled their 4 July celebrations, including parades and fireworks, out of precaution. The Chicago White Sox also announced on Twitter that a planned post-game fireworks show was called off due to the shooting.
Last month President Biden signed the first significant federal gun controls in the US for decades, envisaging tougher background checks on young people seeking to buy weapons and encouraging states to remove guns from owners considered a threat.
In May a gunman massacred 19 students and two teachers at a Uvalde, Texas, elementary school. Days before, a white man killed 10 black grocery shoppers in Buffalo, New York.