State police defend decision to give Highland Park shooting suspect a firearm permit

Area residents visit a memorial to the seven people who lost their lives in the Highland Park, Ill., Fourth of July mass shooting, Wednesday, July 6, 2022, in Highland Park. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Illinois State Police Director Brendan Kelly defended his agency’s decision to award a Firearm Owner’s Identification card to the 21-year-old Highwood man accused of killing seven people and wounding more than two dozen others in a mass shooting during the Highland Park Fourth of July parade.

Kelly said information available to state police at the time Robert Crimo III applied for the FOID card in December 2019 “was clear there was no probable cause, the lowest burden of proof you can have” to deny the card, despite two recent interactions with Highland Park police where the suspect threatened violence against himself and others.

Because police couldn’t “corroborate” the threats made by the shooting suspect at the time, Kelly said the officer deciding the fate of the suspect’s FOID card application followed state law by approving it.

Police had two prior contacts with the suspect in 2019.

In April, police were called by a family member who said the suspect had threatened suicide about a week earlier.

Then in September, a family member reported the suspect had threatened to “kill everyone,” officials said. Police confiscated 16 knives, a sword and a dagger.

However, Kelly said Wednesday that both the suspect and his mother denied he had made those threats.

Police at the time determined that without a complaint, there was no probable cause for an arrest, but they did notify state police of the incident.

Then, state police noted, they returned all the weapons to the suspect’s father, who said they belonged to him.

When the suspect applied for the FOID card, he was only 19 and was required to have a sponsor for the process. His father vouched for him, state police said.

Kelly would not say what, if any, liability or criminal culpability someone has who sponsors an underage firearm owner who later commits a crime with that type of weapon.

“That will be something that will be spoken to by the state’s attorney or federal prosecutors ... in terms of what the potential criminal consequences could be,” he said Wednesday when asked by reporters.

State police also noted the suspect passed federal background checks when he purchased firearms on four separate occasions in June 2020, twice in July 2020 and a final time in September 2021.

Kelly dodged a question about how the suspect was able to purchase an assault rifle given Highland Park’s ban on assault weapons. Kelly would not say if the suspect used his family’s Highland Park address or his most recent Highwood address on his FOID card application. Kelly said he was trying to “very carefully balance” state laws and the public’s desire for additional information.

“Some of that identifying information will probably come out during the course of discovery and probably come out during the course of the criminal investigation,” he said.

Wednesday, Kelly acknowledged there was also another background check done in February 2020, but it was missed during the agency’s initial check Tuesday because the firearm dealer misspelled the suspect’s name.

“At the time we ran an initial search yesterday to see what purchases there were, that was one that did not come up,” Kelly said. “The background check was completed (because) ... the FOID number was correct and the other information was correct.”

Jake Griffin Daily Herald Media Group

Jake Griffin is the assistant managing editor for watchdog reporting at the Daily Herald