A man armed with a high-powered rifle open fired and murdered at least six individuals during a Highland Park parade that was supposed to celebrate U.S. Independence Day on Monday.
Police officers went on a manhunt in the wealthy Chicago suburb for the gunman, who was still at large, while authorities rushed to end Fourth of July celebrations in the area and in nearby Evanston.
Along the route of the parade, chairs and other belongings have been abandoned following the fleeing of spectators trying to save their lives.
“Everyone thought it was fireworks,” one parade-goer told CNN.
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“My dad thought it was part of the show, and I’m like, ‘Dad, no… something is wrong.’ And I grabbed him. And I looked back at him, and then it was just a sea of panic, and people just falling and falling,” the said parade-goer went on to mention.
As they ran, the said attendee, referred to only as Zoe, recounted that she saw a girl murdered around 20 feet behind her.
Zoe also mentioned that they managed to hide behind a dumpster before police officers led them into the basement of a sporting goods store where others are taking shelter, some of whom were injured.
When they finally were in the clear to leave, Zoe told CNN that the parade venue looked like “a battle zone. And it’s disgusting.”
According to city police Commander Chris O’Neill, the incident started at around 10:14 am as the parade was around three-fourths of the way finished.
“It sounds like spectators were targeted… So, very random, very intentional and very sad,” O’Neill said.
He also mentioned that two dozen individuals had been sent to the hospital while six people died, adding that some of them lost their lives at the scene, which was “very large.”
The suspect was described to be a white man, around 18 to 20 years of age with longer black hair. He was said to have used a “high-powered rifle.”
O’Neill added that the “firearm evidence” had been found on a nearby rooftop, also mentioning that: “All indications is he was discreet, he was very difficult to see.”
“All individuals are still urged to shelter in place at this time,” he added.
Mayor Nancy Rotering of Highland Park, which is a wealthy suburb located north of Chicago, provided the same death toll and condemned the violence.
“On a day that we came together to celebrate community and freedom, we’re instead mourning the tragic loss of life and struggling with the terror that was brought upon us,” she said.