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Highland Park suspect’s father could have some ‘responsibility’ in attack, police say

It’s still far too early to determine if Robert E. Crimo III’s dad could face any criminal culpability for helping the suspect purchase guns before he turned 21.
/ Source: NBC News

Highland Park shooting suspect Robert E. Crimo III’s father “may have responsibility in certain circumstances” for his son’s deadly actions, police said Wednesday while stopping short of tying the dad to any criminal culpability.

The 21-year-old suspect was too young to get a gun permit in 2019 from the state of Illinois, but his father, Bob Crimo Jr., sponsored one for him despite previous threats by his son to harm himself and loved ones, authorities have previously said.

Crimo was still under 21 in 2020 when he purchased the AR-15-style weapon allegedly used in Monday’s attack — a purchase he could only make because his father sponsored his Firearm Owners Identification (FOID) application.

Under an affidavit Crimo’s father signed, he agreed to be “liable for any damages resulting from the minor applicant’s use of firearms or firearm ammunition.”

Asked if the suspect’s parents could be in any criminal jeopardy, Illinois State Police Director Brendan Kelly said it’s too early to tell.

“There’s probably going to be civil litigation. There is ongoing criminal prosecution and criminal investigation,” he told reporters Wednesday.

“Issues of culpability, liability, who may have responsibility in certain circumstances, are all part and parcel of that process. Making a conclusionary statement, the Illinois State Police, weighing in on that, is not appropriate.”

He added: “That determination and the answer to that question is something that will have to be decided in the court.”

Bob Crimo Jr. is a former mayoral candidate in Highland Park and has voiced support for Second Amendment protections.

He co-signed for his son’s FOID application in December 2019, three months after police visited the family’s home because a relative reported that Crimo had threatened to kill his family members, the Illinois State Police said.

At the time, 16 knives, a sword and a dagger were confiscated, but the suspect wasn’t arrested because family members declined to sign any complaints. 

The elder Crimo characterized the incident as a “childish outburst” in an interview with the New York Post.

He insisted he “didn’t do anything wrong” and said he sponsored his son’s application because he thought the firearm use would be limited to the shooting range.

“He bought everything on his own, and they’re registered to him,” the father said. “They make me like I groomed him to do all this.”

The younger Crimo is accused of climbing to the top of a Highland Park building and using that elevated spot as a sniper’s nest, opening fire on people attending the town’s July Fourth parade Monday. Seven people were killed and dozen more injured in the attack.

Various legal experts have said the suspect’s parents could be targets of civil lawsuits but that criminal charges would be unlikely.

That’s largely because Crimo is an adult, said Sean Holihan, the state legislative director at Giffords Law Center, a gun safety group.

“It’s hard to hold parents liable when someone turns 21 even if they are living in the home,” he said. “When someone reaches the age of 21, we’ve agreed as a nation that someone is granted the full rights to do anything they want except run for federal office and rent a car.”

Attorney Steve Greenberg, who is representing the suspect’s parents, said he agreed with that assessment but declined to comment further.

The Lake County State’s Attorney’s Office on Thursday also declined to discuss that part of the probe.

“Since the investigation into this matter is still ongoing, we cannot comment,” it said in a statement.

The suspect’s uncle, Paul Crimo, who lives with the suspect and the suspect’s father in Highwood, said his nephew never showed signs of violence prior to the attack and “showed no aggression” toward him.

The 55-year-old apologized for the alleged actions of his nephew.

“I’m sorry from the bottom of my heart,” he said from his home Thursday. “I’m devastated. My heart, my thoughts and prayers goes out to all the victims, the families and everybody that got hurt, the community, everybody.”

Parents of accused mass shooters are rarely held criminally accountable.

But in December 2021, prosecutors in Michigan charged James and Jennifer Crumbley, the parents of a teenager accused of killing four people in a high school shooting, with involuntary manslaughter.

Legal experts said there are major differences in the Crumbley case and Crimo’s, including the ages of the suspects. The accused high school shooter in Michigan was 15 at the time, while Crimo is 21.

Under Michigan law, an involuntary manslaughter charge can be pursued when someone’s negligent act or omission results in the death of another. But Illinois requires a showing of recklessness to obtain an involuntary manslaughter conviction, said Chris Mattei, an attorney and former prosecutor in Connecticut. 

That means prosecutors there have a higher standard than what was used to charge the parents in Michigan, particularly because parents of an adult do not have the same legal duties as parents of a minor.

“Anybody who is looking to prove a case of involuntary manslaughter against the parents of an adult would have a pretty steep hill to climb,” Mattei said.

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