At least six people have been killed and two dozen others injured in a shooting at an Independence Day parade in a Chicago suburb, officials in the US city of Highland Park said, as authorities continue to search for the suspect. Dozens shot and killed at July 4 parade near Chicago
Officials told a news conference on Monday afternoon that six people were killed and 24 taken to hospital, and that a rifle was recovered from the scene.
“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,” Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering told reporters.
The city’s police commander Chris O’Neill, the incident commander on the scene, urged people to shelter in place as authorities search for the suspect, described as a white male wearing a white or blue T-shirt and believed to be about 18 to 20 years old.
Lake County Major Crime Task Force spokesman Christopher Covelli also said at the news conference that the gunman apparently opened fire on parade-goers from a rooftop using the rifle that was recovered.
“Law enforcement agencies are searching for the suspect; evidence of a firearm has been recovered. Numerous law enforcement officers are responding and have secured a perimeter around downtown Highland Park,” the city said on its website.
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, spurred calls for stricter gun regulations.
Monday’s shooting 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.
The Chicago Sun-Times newspaper reported that the parade began around 10am local time (15:00 GMT) but was suddenly halted 10 minutes later after shots were fired. Police told people: “Everybody disperse, please. It is not safe to be here.”
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 traumatizing”, 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.”
‘Enough is enough’
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.
“Hearing of loss of life and others injured,” Schneider wrote on Twitter. “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!”
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot also said “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 the entire Highland Park community,” she tweeted.
Gun violence has been a problem across the US for decades, drawing condemnation and calls for gun control, especially in the aftermath of mass shootings.
Those calls grew louder in the aftermath of 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 bipartisan compromise falls short of what is really needed, Biden acknowledged on June 25, but he said it will “save lives”.
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 community and said federal law enforcement were assisting in the search for the shooter. “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.