Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering has revealed that she once served as the Cub Scout leader for Robert Crimo, the 21-year-old suspect who was arrested and charged in connection with the Fourth of July mass shooting that left six dead and dozens injured.
Speaking to NBC Today Show host Hoda Kotb on Tuesday morning, Ms Rotering explained that she could not say whether Mr Crimo was known to authorities before the Independence Day shooting but she had personally known him several years before when she worked as a Cub Scout leader in the area.
“I know him as somebody who was a Cub Scout when I was the Cub Scout leader,” Ms Rotering said. “And it’s one of those things where you step back and you say, ‘What happened?’ How did somebody become this angry, this hateful to then take it out on innocent people who, literally, were just having a family day out?”
When pressed by the host about whether she had any specific memories of Mr Crimo from when he was a little boy, the mayor kept her response blunt but succinct: “He was just a little boy.”
The mayor also confirmed during the Tuesday morning interview on NBC that, while she couldn’t say how it was procured, the gun used in the fatal attack was legally obtained.
“At some point this nation needs to have a conversation about these weekly events involving the murder of dozens of people with legally obtained guns,” she said, echoing a sentiment picked up by the state’s governor in a press conference delivered the night before.
“While we celebrate the Fourth of July just once a year, mass shootings have become our weekly – yes, weekly – American tradition,” said Illinois Gov JB Pritzker. “It’s the Fourth of July, a day for reflection on our freedoms. Our founders carried muskets, not assault weapons. And I don’t think a single one of them would have said that you have a constitutional right to an assault weapon with a high-capacity magazine, or that that is more important than the right of the people who attended this parade today to live.”
Ms Kotb correctly pointed out during the Tuesday morning interview with the Highland Park mayor that, despite the city banning assault weapons in 2013 – a decision that US Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas wrote a dissenting opinion against – a fatal mass shooting still took place in the small Illinois city.
Ms Rotering responded in kind by noting that legally purchased guns have been the cause of a number of recent mass shootings, adding that: “if that’s what our laws stand for then I think we have to examine the laws.”
“I want us to talk about the fact that there are weapons of war on our streets that people can legally obtain – and then take out dozens of people,” she said, emphasising that the focus right now should be on gun access and not mental health. “Our community is never going to recover from this wound.”
Officials have so far not provided details of the exact model of the firearm used in Monday’s massacre, but have indicated that it was a “high-powered” long rifle that had the capability to “spray” bullets over the parade-watching crowd.
Ms Rotering said that she had received messages from other mayors who had similarly been forced to lead their communities in the wake of deadly massacres such as the one she was guiding Highland Park through right now, noting that she never thought she’d be put in this position.
“I don’t know how many more of these events need to occur. We’ve been talking about this, literally, for decades at this point,” she said. “And it’s one of those things where you ask yourself, if this reflects the values of who we are, then what does that say about us as a nation?”