Months before he unleashed violence at a Fourth of July parade, the suspected gunman in the Highland Park mass shooting reportedly stirred suspicions at a local synagogue.
Rabbi Yosef Schanowitz said he almost immediately recognized a photo of Robert Crimo III, released by police after he was dubbed a person of interest in the massacre on Monday. The 21-year-old has since been charged with seven counts of first-degree murder in connection with the shooting, which authorities said he allegedly carried out by climbing onto a rooftop overlooking the parade route winding through Highland Park and then opening fire.
“During the last Passover holiday, that person entered the Chabad synagogue,” he told the Times of Israel.
“We have an armed security guard sitting in front… I approached him and sternly asked him to leave as I noticed he was not a member of our community.”
Schanowitz did not elaborate on Crimo’s behavior, nor whether or not he was acting in a strange manner.
Michael Masters, chief executive officer of Secure Community Network, which is headquartered in Chicago, confirmed the encounter.
“There was a conversation with the individual and he ultimately left,” he told the Chicago Sun Times.
While Highland Park does have a significant Jewish community, Masters said investigators have yet to uncover any evidence indicating that the Independence Day shooting was rooted in anti-Semitism.
“Apparently on social media, there are some indications he was ideating around the Fourth of July for some period of time, which would indicate this was not an attack on one particular community,” Masters said.
Authorities believe Crimo planned out his attack on the parade for months, but they are still working to determine a motive behind the brutal attack.
The synagogue in question is located just a few blocks from where the parade shooting occurred. At least seven people have died in connection with the massacre and dozens more remain hospitalized.