EXPLAINER: Will parents face legal issues during the July 4 attack? | Michigan News

By KATHLEEN FOODY, Associated Press

CHICAGO (AP) — In 2019, Robert E. Crimo III was too young to independently apply for a firearms license in Illinois.

His father sponsored the request just months after an unidentified family member called the police to report the son had a collection of knives and threatened to “kill everyone”.

Illinois State Police reviewed the license application and found no reason to deny it as Crimo had no arrests, no criminal records, no serious mental health issues, no protective orders and any other behavior that would disqualify him.

By 2021, the 21-year-old had purchased at least five guns. He is now accused of using a semi-automatic rifle to open fire on a crowd of unsuspecting July 4 parade spectators in the Chicago suburb of Highland Park, killing seven people and injuring at least 30 others.

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The parents of the accused shooter are also under scrutiny as the shocked community wonders why they apparently backed their son’s interest in firearms just months after he allegedly threatened to commit suicide and resort to violence.

Gun violence advocates are encouraged to see police and prosecutors investigate anyone who may have contributed to the attack, including the parents of the accused shooter.

“For too long, we have only held the individual who pulled the trigger accountable for their actions that led to the violence,” said Christian Heyne, vice president of policy for the Brady campaign. “But the more we understand gun violence as a whole, the more we understand that other people have made it possible.”

Legal experts, however, said it was incredibly difficult to prove criminal charges against a shooter’s parent or guardian. More often, they face civil lawsuits where the legal standards of proof are lower.

Such is the case in the May 14 shooting in Buffalo, New York, where 10 black people died in an attack by an 18-year-old white gunman. The prosecutor said no one else should face criminal charges, although court documents say the parents could face at least one legal action.

One exception is still pending in Michigan state court, where in December a prosecutor charged the parents of a 15-year-old boy with manslaughter in the shooting deaths of four high school students ‘teenager. He was charged as an adult with murder and terrorism.


Police said Crimo had already met with authorities twice.

In April 2019, Crimo attempted suicide with a machete, according to a police report obtained by The Associated Press that noted a “history of attempts.”

In September 2019, police returned after a family member reported Crimo had a collection of knives and threatened to “kill everyone”. But according to Illinois State Police, Crimo and his mother disputed the threat of violence.

“The individual told police he did not feel like harming himself or others and was offered mental health resources,” the statement read.

Police said Father Bob Crimo – a former Highland Park mayoral candidate – later told investigators the knives belonged to him and authorities returned them.

When the young Crimo applied for a state firearms license in December 2019, his father backed him up, a requirement for applicants under 21.


Proving a criminal charge requires convincing the jurors or a judge of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. It’s difficult in a scenario where the defendant hasn’t personally acted, said Paul Cain, a law professor at Northern Illinois University.

“They must show that the parents aided and abetted the crime in some way for there to be a charge based on liability,” Cain said. “This is the driver of the getaway car who did not enter and rob the store at gunpoint… but took steps to allow this robbery to continue.”

Katherine Schweit, a retired FBI agent who developed the agency’s active shooter program, agreed that prosecutors’ challenge shows a strong connection to the crime – “where they could have prevented it and chose not to.” not do it”.

“Just because someone knows someone isn’t as sure as we would like doesn’t mean they can be charged,” she said. “There must be some level of immediate cause attached.”

Lake County State’s Attorney Eric Rinehart declined this week to say whether his office would pursue charges against Crimo’s parents.

In media interviews, Bob Crimo said he didn’t expect to face charges and didn’t believe he did anything wrong in helping his son get a driver’s license. firearms through the process established by the state.


Manslaughter charges filed in Michigan against James and Jennifer Crumbley made international headlines because the decision deviated so much from the norm.

Prosecutors accused the Crumbleys of failing to keep their son away from the semi-automatic rifle his father bought and of taking no action after school officials found a drawing and written threats on the boy’s office hours before the shooting.

“The idea that a parent could read these words and also know that their son had access to a deadly weapon they gave him is unconscionable – it’s criminal,” said Oakland County District Attorney Karen McDonald, announcing the charges.

The Crumbleys pleaded not guilty and their attorneys said they were devastated after learning their son was charged with the murders.

In May, an Illinois man was convicted of unlawfully delivering a firearm to a person who had been treated for mental illness for the past five years. Prosecutors said the father gave his son an assault rifle which he later used to shoot and kill four people in 2018 at a Waffle House in Tennessee, despite knowing the son had received treatment of mental health.

In 2020, the mother of an Indiana teenager was placed on probation for not removing guns from her home after her mentally ill son threatened to kill college students. He fired shots inside his school in 2018. No one was hurt, but the boy took his own life.

In Washington state, the father of a boy who killed four high school students in 2014 has been convicted of unlawful possession of a firearm. He was not charged in the shooting, although one of his guns was used.

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