Following the shooting during an Independence Day parade in the Chicago suburb of Highland Park that killed at least six people, a local Chabad emissary said he had witnessed the suspected shooter entering his synagogue in the spring.
Rabbi Yosef Schanowitz recognized the photo of 22-year-old Robert E. Crimo III released by police following the shooting, and realized he had encountered the suspect a few months earlier.
He said a man appearing to be Crimo had entered the Central Avenue Synagogue, near the scene of the shooting. The synagogue’s security, which includes off-duty police, kept an eye on him while he was there.
“He entered wearing a yarmulke yet seemed out of place,” Schanowitz said. “A short while later he departed without incident.”
He said the synagogue was working with law enforcement in the investigation into the massacre.
According to a report by The Forward, Schanowitz, whose synagogue is located two blocks away from the site of the shooting, helped shelter four teenage boys who were preparing a Chabad booth for the parade after shots were first heard.
After taking them in and making sure they called their parents, the Chabad rabbi drove to the Highland Park Hospital to visit the over 30 people injured in the incident.
“There was chaos… There was an overload of unexpected trauma,” he told The Forward.
But that didn’t stop the 66-year-old rabbi, who volunteered as a chaplain before the pandemic, from rushing to the emergency room and trying to comfort the injured while reciting the Shema prayer.
“I told them I was clergy and I wished them all the best,” Schanowitz said, noting that while “most of the people I saw were not of the Jewish faith, there were a few who were.”
He continued, “You have to do what you have to do. I thought I should at least make sure that there’s clergy on the premises.
“It just drives home that we’re living in an imperfect world, and we have work to do,” he said.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry said it had received information about Jewish casualties. Highland Park is an affluent suburb roughly 25 miles north of downtown Chicago. At least one-third of its 30,000 residents are Jewish and many are Israeli.
Among the casualties in the shooting, two were so far identified as Jacki Sundheim, a longtime senior staffer at a Chicago-area synagogue, and Nicholas Toledo, a Mexican grandfather visiting his family.
Crimo was identified by police as a person of interest before being taken into custody following an hours-long manhunt.