HIGHLAND PARK, Ill. – Five people were killed and 16 others wounded when a gunman started shooting 10 minutes after the Highland Park Fourth of July parade kicked off Monday morning, authorities said.
As of 12:15 p.m., the gunman remained at large and authorities urged people in the area to “shelter in place. Law enforcement are searching for the suspect.”
Police radio traffic described the gunman as possibly having a “large yellow backpack, like an Army-style backpack.”
A Chicago Sun-Times reporter saw blankets covering three bloodied bodies and five other people wounded and bloodied near the parade’s reviewing stand. Several witnesses said they heard multiple shots fired.
“I heard 20 to 25 shots which were rapid in succession,” Miles Zaremski, a Highland Park resident, told the Chicago Sun-Times.
He said the gunfire was at Central Avenue and Second Avenue. “It was people in that area that got shot, murdered, from a little child I saw, I don’t know if he survived, to a woman covered with blood and she did not survive. And there were others as well.”
Neesa Sweet, a Highland Park resident, said she was “about a half block away, walking toward the reviewing stand. Suddenly, I heard loud, repeated, rapid-fire shots. It lasted a long time. People started running away.”
Police repeatedly yelled into the crowd, “Everybody disburse, please. It is not safe to be here.”
As they fled the parade route on Central Street in downtown Highland Park, parade-goers left behind chairs, baby strollers and blankets as they sought cover, not knowing just what happened.
Police patrolled the area with rifles. Police radio traffic described the gunman as possibly having a “large yellow backpack, like an Army-style backpack.”
Adrienne Drell, a former Sun-Times reporter, said she was sitting on a curb along Central Avenue watching the parade when she saw members of the Highland Park High School marching band start to run.
“Go to Sunset,” Drell said she heard the students shout, directing people to nearby Sunset Food.
A man picked her up off the curb and urged her to get out, Drell said. “There’s panic in the whole town,” she said. “Everyone is just stunned beyond belief.”
She ran across to a nearby parking lot with other people who had been watching the parade.
“It was a quiet, peaceful, lovely morning, people were enjoying the parade,” Drell said. “Within seconds, to have that peacefulness suddenly ripped apart, it’s scary. You can’t go anywhere, you can’t find peace. I think we are falling apart.”
Illinois State Police called it an active shooter situation and said they are assisting Highland Park Police. The public is being advised to avoid the area of Central Avenue and 2nd Street.
The parade had a heavy presence of police and fire vehicles.