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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

‘We need help.’ In first Highland Park council meeting since mass shooting, mayor renews call for federal assault weapons ban

By John Keilman Chicago Tribune

CHICAGO — Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering continued to call for a federal ban on assault-style weapons Monday during the City Council’s first meeting since the Independence Day mass shooting.

Following a moment of silence at the start of the meeting, Rotering, sometimes tearfully, sometimes angrily, summed up her efforts to lobby federal officials to institute the sort of ban Highland Park itself imposed nearly a decade ago.

“It is important to note that in 2013, in the wake of (the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre), we sat on this dais and banned assault weapons and large capacity magazines,” she said. “We knew that a federal ban would be the most effective, but a local ban, reflecting the values of this community, was the only option available to us under the law.

“Nothing has changed and we need help from all levels of government. We need to pursue all options. We need to continue to work to save lives right now.”

Rotering has been to Washington, D.C., twice since the shooting to speak with President Joe Biden, White House advisers and Attorney General Merrick Garland, and to testify at a Senate hearing.

Though most of Monday’s meeting was dedicated to typical municipal matters, the specter of July Fourth hung over the council chamber, located just a few blocks from where the violence erupted.

The city had been holding its first Independence Day parade since the start of the pandemic when a gunman opened fire from a rooftop along Central Avenue, killing seven people and injuring at least 48 more.

One of those shot, 8-year-old Cooper Roberts, remains in critical condition after a bullet left him paralyzed from the waist down.

The suspect, 21-year-old Robert “Bobby” Crimo III, who grew up in Highland Park, was arrested hours later in Lake Forest. He has been charged with seven counts of murder in Lake County Circuit Court. His preliminary hearing is set for Thursday.

In a report following the mayor’s remarks, city manager Ghida Neukirch said 115 agencies responded to the shooting, including 74 law enforcement agencies and 25 fire departments. She saluted the “incredible bravery” of the city’s own first responders, which prompted a standing ovation from the small crowd in the chamber.

She also said the city is planning to build a permanent memorial to remember the victims, but in keeping with advice from experts at the Department of Justice, that will not begin right away so the community can continue to grieve.

The only resident to address the meeting was Herbert Kruse, who said he lives in an apartment adjacent to the building where Crimo allegedly set up his sniper’s perch. He drew portraits of the victims that were publicly displayed on empty chairs as a temporary memorial.

Kruse told the council he is moving out of Highland Park on Tuesday because he no longer feels safe in his building. In a later interview, he said bullets had flown over his head when he was on the street; he said he and his wife pulled a bystander into the building and huddled in the apartment.

“We thought, ‘He’s in the roof and he could come in through our skylight,’ ” he said. “So we stayed in the bedroom where there weren’t skylights. … I kept checking and hoping he wasn’t coming in.”

Kruse dropped off his portraits in the council chambers. Rotering thanked him for his contributions.

“You and I spoke shortly after the event, and I just so appreciate what you’ve brought to hundreds of people in terms of understanding the humanity behind this tragedy,” she said. “I know you’ll carry us with you as you head to your next chapter in your life.”