Officials in US city of Highland Park are still searching for the suspect after deadly attack at Independence Day event.
Authorities say a gunman fired a ‘high-powered rifle’ on a parade in Highland Park, a community of about 30,000 residents some 40km (25 miles) north of Chicago, sending hundreds of attendees fleeing.
At least six people have been killed and two dozen others injured in a shooting in a Chicago suburb, officials in the US city of Highland Park, Illinois, said after a gunman opened fire from a rooftop on an Independence Day parade.
Officials said during a news conference on Monday that six people were dead and 24 were taken to hospital after the mid-morning attack, and that a rifle was recovered from the scene. A hospital spokesperson reported 31 people were injured.
Hours after the shooting, authorities continued to search for the suspect, who was described as a white male wearing a white or blue T-shirt and is believed to be about 18 to 20 years old.
Lake County Major Crime Task Force Spokesperson Christopher Covelli told reporters the gunman apparently used a “high-powered rifle” to fire from a spot atop a building where he was “very difficult to see”.
“Very random, very intentional and a very sad day,” Covelli said.
“We are aggressively looking for the individual who’s responsible,” he added. “He could be in the city. He could be somewhere else.”
Chairs and blankets left behind along parade route in Highland Park, Illinois.
Chairs and blankets are left abandoned after the shooting in Highland Park, Illinois.
The shooting comes as the United States struggles to stem a surge in gun violence and after a string of recent deadly incidents, including a massacre at a Texas primary school, has renewed calls for stricter gun regulations in the country.
The attack in Highland Park, a community of about 30,000 residents some 40km (25 miles) north of Chicago, sent hundreds of parade attendees – some visibly bloodied – fleeing, with many leaving behind chairs, baby strollers and blankets.
Witnesses described seeing bloodied bodies covered with blankets.
“Our community was 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,” Mayor Nancy Rotering told reporters later on Monday afternoon.
The Chicago Sun-Times newspaper reported that the parade began at about 10am local time (15:00 GMT) but was suddenly halted 10 minutes later after shots were fired.
Amarani Garcia, who was at the parade with her young daughter, told the local ABC affiliate she heard gunfire nearby, then a pause for what she suspected was reloading, and then more shots again.
There were “people screaming and running. It was just really traumatising”, Garcia said. “I was very terrified. I hid with my daughter actually in a little store. It just makes me feel like we’re not safe anymore.”
Debbie Glickman, a Highland Park resident, said she was on a parade float with coworkers and the group was preparing to turn onto 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 news agency. “So we just ran. We just ran. It’s like mass chaos down there.”
The tragedy unfolding in Highland Park is devastating. I have been in contact with Mayor Rotering and have offered our support, and the Chicago Police Department is providing assistance. We grieve with the families of the deceased and injured as well as
— Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot (@chicagosmayor) July 4, 2022
‘Enough is enough’
Police have not released details about the victims or those wounded.
Covelli said “several of the deceased victims” died at the scene, and one was taken to a hospital and died there. County coroner Jennifer Banek said the five people killed at the parade were adults, and she did not have information on the sixth victim who died in hospital.
US Congressman Brad Schneider, whose district includes Highland Park, said he and his campaign team had been gathering at the start of the parade when the shooting started.
“My condolences to the family and loved ones; my prayers for the injured and for my community; and my commitment to do everything I can to make our children, our towns, our nation safer. Enough is enough!” he wrote on Twitter.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot also said the attack was “devastating”.
“I have been in contact with Mayor Rotering and have offered our support, and the Chicago Police Department is providing assistance. We grieve with the families of the deceased and injured as well as the entire Highland Park community,” she tweeted.
Gun violence has been a problem across the US for years, drawing condemnation and calls for gun control, especially in the aftermath of mass shootings.
Those calls grew louder following a recent attack at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, that killed 19 children and two teachers, and after a racist shooting at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York, left 10 Black people dead.
Late last month, US President Joe Biden signed into law the first major federal gun reform in 30 years. The bill includes provisions to toughen background checks for the youngest gun buyers, keep firearms from more domestic violence offenders, and help states put in place red-flag laws that make it easier for authorities to take weapons from people deemed to be dangerous.
In a statement on Monday afternoon on the attack in Highland Park, Biden expressed shock at “the senseless gun violence that has yet again brought grief to an American community on this Independence Day”.
He pledged assistance to the Illinois community and said federal law enforcement were assisting in the search for the attacker.
“I recently signed the first major bipartisan gun reform legislation in almost thirty years into law, which includes actions that will save lives. But there is much more work to do, and I’m not going to give up fighting the epidemic of gun violence,” Biden said.
The US has seen 308 mass shootings so far this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive, a US non-profit that defines a mass shooting as any incident in which four or more people are shot or killed, not including the attacker.