EXPLAINER: Will parents face legal trouble in July 4 attack?

Jul 7, 2022, 2:02 AM | Updated: 2:11 pm
A visitor prays at a memorial to the seven people killed and others injured in Monday's Fourth of J...

A visitor prays at a memorial to the seven people killed and others injured in Monday's Fourth of July mass shooting at the Highland Park War Memorial in Highland Park, Ill., Thursday, July 7, 2022. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

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

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

Illinois State Police reviewed the license application and found no reason to deny it because Crimo had no arrests, no criminal record, no serious mental health problems, no orders of protection and no other behavior that would disqualify him.

By 2021, the 21-year-old man had purchased at least five weapons. Now he’s accused of using a semi-automatic rifle to open fire on a crowd of unsuspecting July 4 paradegoers in the Chicago suburb of Highland Park, killing seven people and wounding at least 30 more.

The accused gunman’s parents are also under scrutiny as the reeling community questions why they apparently supported their son’s interest in guns only months after he reportedly threatened suicide and violence.

Anti-gun violence advocates are encouraged to see police and prosecutors investigating anyone who may have contributed to the attack, including the accused shooter’s parents.

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

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

That 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 there has said no one else is expected to be criminally charged, although court filings indicate the parents may face at least one lawsuit.

One exception is still moving through a Michigan state court, where in December a prosecutor charged the parents of a 15-year-old boy with involuntary manslaughter following the fatal shooting of four students at the teenager’s high school. He was charged as an adult with murder and terrorism.


Police have said Crimo had two previous encounters with authorities.

In April 2019, Crimo attempted suicide by 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 that Crimo had a collection of knives and had threatened to “kill everyone.” But according to Illinois State Police, both Crimo and his mother disputed the threat of violence.

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

Police have said father Bob Crimo — a former candidate for mayor of Highland Park — later told investigators the knives belonged to him, and authorities returned them.

When the younger Crimo applied for a state gun license in December 2019, his father supported it, a requirement for applicants who are under 21.


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

“They have to show the parents aided and abetted crime in some way for there to be an accountability based charge,” Cain said. “That’s the getaway car driver who didn’t actually go in and rob the store at gunpoint … but performed some action to allow that robbery to go forward.”

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

“Just because somebody knows that someone isn’t as safe as the rest of us would like them, that doesn’t mean that person can be charged,” she said. “There has to be some level of proximate cause attached.”

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

In media interviews, Bob Crimo has said he does not expect to face charges and does not believe he did anything wrong by helping his son get a gun license through the state’s established process.


The involuntary manslaughter charges filed in Michigan against James and Jennifer Crumbley made international headlines because the decision was such a departure from the norm.

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

“The notion that a parent could read those words and also know that their son had access to a deadly weapon that they gave him is unconscionable — it’s criminal,” Oakland County prosecutor Karen McDonald said as she announced the charges.

The Crumbleys have pleaded not guilty, and their attorneys have said they were devastated after learning their son was accused in the killings.

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

In 2020, the mother of an Indiana teen was placed on probation for failing to remove guns from her home after her mentally ill son threatened to kill students. He fired shots inside his school in 2018. No one was injured, but the boy killed himself.

In Washington state, the father of a boy who killed four students at a high school in 2014 was convicted of illegally possessing firearms. He was not charged in the shooting, although one of his guns was used.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


FILE - This undated photo provided by The Texas Department of Criminal Justice shows John Henry Ram...
Associated Press

Texas inmate who fought prayer, touch rules to be executed

HOUSTON (AP) — A Texas death row inmate whose case clarified the role of spiritual advisers in death chambers nationwide is scheduled for execution Wednesday, despite efforts by a district attorney to stop his lethal injection. John Henry Ramirez, 38, was sentenced to death for killing 46-year-old Pablo Castro, a convenience store clerk, in 2004. […]
22 hours ago
A customer looks at refrigerated items at a Grocery Outlet store in Pleasanton, Calif.,. on Thursda...
Associated Press

‘Best Before’ labels scrutinized as food waste concerns grow

As awareness grows around the world about the problem of food waste, one culprit in particular is drawing scrutiny: “best before” labels. Manufacturers have used the labels for decades to estimate peak freshness. Unlike “use by” labels, which are found on perishable foods like meat and dairy, “best before” labels have nothing to do with […]
22 hours ago
FILE - President Joe Biden attends an event to support legislation that would encourage domestic ma...
Associated Press

Can Biden save democracy one US factory job at a time?

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden is working to create a manufacturing revival — even helping to put factory jobs in Republican territory under the belief it can restore faith in U.S. democracy. The latest development came Tuesday, when chipmaker Micron announced an investment of up to $100 billion over the next 20-plus years to […]
22 hours ago
FILE - People stand on the destroyed bridge to Pine Island as they view the damage in the aftermath...
Associated Press

Biden to focus on hurricane victims in Florida, not politics

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden will visit hurricane-ravaged Florida with a pledge that federal, state and local governments will work as one to help rebuild homes, businesses and lives — putting politics on mute for now to focus on those in need. Hurricane Ian has resulted in at least 84 people confirmed dead, including […]
22 hours ago
FILE - Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, of Ky., arrives to speak to reporters Sept. 7, 2022,...
Associated Press

GOP optimistic about Senate chances despite Walker turmoil

NEW YORK (AP) — Leading Republicans are entering the final month of the midterm campaign increasingly optimistic that a Senate majority is within reach even as a dramatic family fight in Georgia clouds one of the party’s biggest pickup opportunities. And as some Democrats crow on social media about apparent Republican setbacks, party strategists privately […]
22 hours ago
Former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins, center, arrives at the Australian Capital Territory Suprem...
Associated Press

Complainant testifies about Australian Parliament House rape

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — A government staffer testified Wednesday about being raped by a colleague in the Australian Parliament House and described her fears of not being believed because of the disparity in their workplace statuses. Brittany Higgins became the first witness to testify against Bruce Lehrmann, 27, who has pleaded not guilty in the […]
22 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.

Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]
EXPLAINER: Will parents face legal trouble in July 4 attack?