Chicago stations cover Highland Park shooting tragedy


Local stations pre-empt programming on holiday

For a city used to the horrors of gun violence, even this was too much to take.

On a sparkly clear day, a Fourth Of July parade in the north suburban community of Highland Park was interrupted by a gunman who opened fire from a roof of a commercial building, hitting spectators below. As of this writing, seven people were killed and about 30 people were injured. The suspect escaped dressed in women’s clothing.

After a manhunt, the suspect – whose name is Robert Crimo III, was spotted driving on U.S. 41 in North Chicago, where he was taken into custody without incident. On Tuesday, he was charged with seven counts of murder, with more charges likely to come. The shootings had a domino effect, with many northern suburbs cancelling parades and fireworks shows, given the suspect wasn’t placed into custody until about 6:30 p.m.

For some, it brought back horrible memories of the Laurie Dann shooting in nearby Winnetka. On May 20, 1988, Dann opened fire in an elementary school, wounding several students and killing eight year-old Nick Corwin. Dann later took a family hostage, set fire to their house and later committed suicide.

In 2008, a Valentine’s Day mass shooting on the NIU campus in DeKalb killed five and wounded seventeen. Three years ago, five were killed and others wounded at a manufacturing company in Aurora.

The tragedy – on a holiday where local news operations usually don’t operate at full capacity, were thrust into action with everyone breaking in around 11 a.m. or so, minutes after the shooting occurred. All local stations stayed on the air continuously until about 8 p.m., over an hour after Crimo was placed into custody. This is in vast contrast to the lackluster coverage of downtown protests and outbreaks of rioting, at least early on, two years ago after George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis. The Sun-Times and Tribune also kept their readers informed all day Monday with frequent updates on their websites and social media accounts. 

Audacy’s WBBM-AM also thrust into action, as they reported on the situation all day. The first tweet I received about the tragedy came from their Traffic account.

Cable news networks (excluding you-know-who) were also on the story all day, with CNN and MSNBC dispatching reporters to Highland Park. MSNBC Prime was live on the scene of the tragedy Tuesday evening, as was The News With Shepard Smith’s Valerie Castro. National broadcast news outlets were also present. 

The story even made entertainment websites including Variety and Deadline

Once the suspect was named, local stations’ investigative units dug into Crimo’s past and uncovered distributing material, including a bizarre social media video mocking school shootings, and a rap album he released online (all have has since been removed from numerous platforms.) It was also revealed Crimo had bought several guns and planned the attack “for weeks” as pictures of him supporting former President Donald Trump were found on social media. So far, no motive has been determined for his actions.

Early on, there were attempts by conservative media outlets to tie the tragedy to Chicago’s ongoing gun violence epidemic. One purposely stated Highland Park was a Chicago neighborhood, even though the suburban city is 25 miles north of downtown Chicago and is one of the wealthiest suburbs on the North Shore – traditionally one of the safest in the Chicago area. 

All of this comes as the debate over gun control has reached a fever pitch in recent months. A few weeks ago, nineteen children and two adults were killed in an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. This was the third mass shooting in the Chicago area this weekend – the other was at Parkway Gardens on Chicago’s South Side and another in Gary, Ind. where three were killed and seven wounded.

Of course, this is just the beginning. The fallout from the shooting will reverberate for sometime to come, from the debate over assault-style weapons to the eventual trial of Robert Crimo III as there is still a lot to unearth involving this person and why he committed these heinous crimes. 


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