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'Jacki's work, kindness and warmth touched us all'

Synagogue staffer, Mexican grandfather among 6 shot dead in Chicago’s Highland Park

North Shore Congregation Israel identifies Jacki Sundheim as one of the victims; Nicholas Toledo, 78, had been visiting family from Mexico; 4 other fatalities yet to be identified

Nicholas Toledo, 78, left, a father of eight and a grandfather, and Jacki Sundheim, right, a North Shore Congregation Israel staffer, who were killed in the shooting attack on an Independence Day parade on July 4, 2022. (Courtesy)
Nicholas Toledo, 78, left, a father of eight and a grandfather, and Jacki Sundheim, right, a North Shore Congregation Israel staffer, who were killed in the shooting attack on an Independence Day parade on July 4, 2022. (Courtesy)

A long-time senior staffer at a Chicago-area synagogue and a Mexican grandfather visiting his family were the first two victims identified on Monday after a gunman killed at least six people at an Independence Day parade in the Chicago suburb of Highland Park.

On Monday night, North Shore Congregation Israel in neighboring Glencoe announced that a congregant who also worked on the synagogue’s staff was among the victims. Jacki Sundheim was the Reform synagogue’s events and b’nei mitzvah coordinator, according to its website.

“Jacki was a lifelong congregant of NSCI and a cherished member of NSCI’s staff team for decades,” the synagogue said in an email to congregants. “Jacki’s work, kindness and warmth touched us all.”

The synagogue said she was survived by her husband Bruce and daughter Leah.

Earlier in the day, synagogue leaders had posted a message about the shooting, saying, “This touches each of us deeply and personally; the grief, pain, and fear affect us all.”

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.

Lake County Coroner Jennifer Banek said five people who were killed at the parade were adults, but didn’t have information on the sixth victim who was taken to a hospital and died there. One of those killed was a Mexican national, Roberto Velasco, Mexico’s director for North American affairs, said on Twitter Monday. He said two other Mexicans were wounded.

Family members identified the dead man as Nicholas Toledo, 78, a father of eight and a grandfather, who had come to the US two months ago to visit relatives after being kept apart for the last few years due to COVID.

“We’re very upset, I’m in shock,” Toledo’s granddaughter Xochil Toledo, 23, told The New York Post. “It just feels like a dream, a scary dream.”

A gunman on a rooftop opened fire on the parade, sending hundreds of marchers, parents with strollers and children on bicycles fleeing in terror, police said.

Authorities said Robert E. Crimo III, a 22-year-old man named as a person of interest in the shooting, was taken into police custody Monday evening after an hours-long manhunt.

This undated handout photo provided by the City of Highland Park Police Department shows Robert (Bobby) E. Crimo III. Highland Park Police Chief Lou Jogmen said July 4, 2022, that police had identified 22-year-old Crimo as a person of interest in an Independence Day parade shooting in suburban Chicago. (City of Highland Park Police Department via AP)

“It is devastating that a celebration of America was ripped apart by our uniquely American plague,” Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said at a news conference.

“I’m furious because it does not have to be this way… while we celebrate the Fourth of July just once a year, mass shootings have become a weekly — yes, weekly — American tradition.”

The shooting occurred at a spot on the parade route where many residents had staked out prime viewing points early in the day for the annual celebration. Dozens of fired bullets sent hundreds of parade-goers — some visibly bloodied — fleeing. They left a trail of abandoned items that showed everyday life suddenly, violently disrupted: A half-eaten bag of potato chips; a box of chocolate cookies spilled onto the grass; a child’s Chicago Cubs cap.

“There’s no safe place,” said Highland Park resident Barbara Harte, 73, who had stayed away from the parade fearing a mass shooting, but later ventured from her home.

Highland Park Police Chief Lou Jogmen said a police officer pulled over Crimo about five miles north of the shooting scene, several hours after police released the man’s photo and an image of his silver Honda Fit, and warned the public that he was likely armed and dangerous.

Police declined to immediately identify Crimo as a suspect but said identifying him as a person of interest, sharing his name and other information publicly was a serious step.

NorthShore University Health Center received 26 patients after the attack. All but one had gunshot wounds, said Dr. Brigham Temple, medical director of emergency preparedness. Their ages ranged from 8 to 85, and Temple estimated that four or five patients were children.

Temple said 19 of them were treated and discharged. Others were transferred to other hospitals, while two patients, in stable condition, remained at the Highland Park hospital.

Law enforcement search in downtown Highland Park, a Chicago suburb, after a mass shooting at the Highland Park Fourth of July parade, July 4, 2022. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

The shooter opened fire around 10:15 a.m., when the parade was about three-quarters through, authorities said.

Highland Park Police Commander Chris O’Neill, the incident commander on scene, said the gunman apparently used a “high-powered rifle” to fire from a spot atop a commercial building where he was “very difficult to see.” He said the rifle was recovered at the scene. Police also found a ladder attached to the building.

“Very random, very intentional and a very sad day,” Covelli said.

President Joe Biden on Monday said he and first lady Jill Biden were “shocked by the senseless gun violence that has yet again brought grief to an American community on this Independence Day.” He said he had “surged Federal law enforcement to assist in the urgent search for the shooter, who remains at large at this time.”

Biden signed the widest-ranging gun violence bill passed by Congress in decades, a compromise that showed at once both progress on a long-intractable issue and the deep-seated partisan divide that persists.

Prime Minister Yair Lapid said he was “devastated” by the news from Highland Park “where a day of celebration became a day of tragedy. My thoughts are with the families of the victims and all the American people.”

“Today as always, Israel stands with our American friends,” he added in a tweet. Lapid’s office said he spoke with Israel’s Consul General in Chicago Yinam Cohen who provided initial details on the shooting.

Cohen tweeted, “I am following the horrible news from Highland Park. Our hearts and prayers are with the members of the community. We thank the local authorities for their immediate response.”

More than 100 law enforcement officers were called to the parade scene or dispatched to find the suspected shooter.

Law enforcement search in downtown Highland Park, a Chicago suburb, after a mass shooting at the Highland Park Fourth of July parade, July 4, 2022. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

More than a dozen police officers on Monday evening surrounded a home listed as an address for Crimo in Highland Park. Some officers held rifles as they fixed their eyes on the home. A large armored truck, marked “Police Rescue Vehicle,” occupied the middle of the road near the residence. Police blockaded roads leading to the home in a tree-lined neighborhood near a golf course, allowing only select law enforcement cars through a tight outer perimeter.

Highland Park is a close-knit community located on the shores of Lake Michigan just north of Chicago, with mansions and sprawling lakeside estates that have long drawn the rich and sometimes famous, including NBA legend Michael Jordan, who lived in the city for years when he played for the Chicago Bulls. John Hughes filmed parts of several movies in the city, including “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” “Sixteen Candles” and “Weird Science.”

Pritzker, a Democrat, promised support for the community as well as to bring gunman to justice.

“There are no words for the kind of evil that shows up at a public celebration of freedom, hides on a roof and shoots innocent people with an assault rifle,” Pritzker said.

Debbie Glickman, a Highland Park resident, said she was on a parade float with coworkers and the group was preparing to turn onto the main route when she saw people running from the area.

“People started saying: ‘There’s a shooter, there’s a shooter, there’s a shooter,’” Glickman told the AP. “So we just ran. We just ran. It’s like mass chaos down there.”

She didn’t hear any noises or see anyone who appeared to be injured.

“I’m so freaked out,” she said. “It’s just so sad.”

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