Six people died and dozens were injured after a gunman opened fire at an Independence Day parade in an affluent suburb of Chicago on Monday, the latest mass shooting in a country reeling from attacks at schools, stores and other public spaces.
The shooter aimed from a rooftop in downtown Highland Park, a town on the “north shore” of Lake Michigan about 30 miles from the Chicago’s central business district. Described as an 18 to 20-year-old small-built white man with long, dark hair and wearing a white or blue T-shirt, he remained at large on Monday afternoon, said Chris O’Neill, a commander at the Highland Park police department.
The attack follows a string of mass shootings in the US, including the assault in May at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas at the hands of an 18-year-old man who fatally shot 19 pupils and two teachers. An 18-year-old white supremacist was accused of gunning down 10 black patrons at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York using an assault rifle earlier that month.
The bloodshed prompted the Congress to pass bipartisan legislation to strengthen restrictions on gun ownership, including more stringent background checks for purchases and allowing states to introduce “red flag” laws to prevent dangerous individuals from acquiring guns. The bill falls short of measures advocated by president Joe Biden and many Democrats, however.
Monday’s shooting came less than two weeks after the US Supreme Court struck down a New York state law requiring individuals to show “proper cause” to carry a concealed gun in public, while recognising a constitutional right to carry firearms for self-defence.
Video from the shooting scene showed spectators fleeing a street lined by brick commercial buildings, leaving folding chairs and baby strollers behind. “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,” Nancy Rotering, the mayor of Highland Park, told reporters.
Authorities said they recovered a high-powered rifle from the scene.
The Highland Park shooting was the 23rd mass shooting in the Chicago metropolitan area this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive. The previous 22 left 13 killed and 94 injured.
The region has been rattled in recent months by multiple high-profile shootings.
In May, a gunman opened fire outside a McDonald’s restaurant in Chicago’s Near North Side neighbourhood, killing two people and injuring seven. Days before, a 16-year-old was shot and killed in Millennium Park, a major tourist attraction adjacent to the Loop business district.
The coronavirus pandemic brought a surge in gun violence to Chicago, and crime has been under a greater spotlight over the past year as incidents that tended to be concentrated on the city’s poorer south and west sides have spilled into wealthier downtown and north side neighbourhoods.