A gunman opened fire with a “powerful weapon” in a town near Chicago on Monday, killing at least six people and spreading panic during a National Day parade on July 4 before fleeing.
The tragedy, in a country still reeling from a series of deadly shootings, occurred at approximately 10:15 a.m. (3:15 p.m. GMT) in Highland Park, an affluent suburb of the northern US capital. At least 24 wounded people were cared for by emergency services.
Hundreds of police deployed to this town of 30,000 people on the shores of Lake Michigan, to find the owner of the shots, a white young man whose identity was not immediately identified.
Democratic President Joe Biden, saying he was “shocked,” promised in a statement to continue the fight against the “epidemic of gun violence” after this new bloodbath.
Early in the morning hundreds of people, including many families with children, took their places on the sidewalks of Highland Park for the traditional parade of American Independence Day, as in all the United States, a public holiday in early summer.
When high school bands marched through the streets, a wave of gunshots erupted. A woman witness to the tragedy, who gave only her first name Zoe, commented on CNN: “We heard about 50 gunshots, and we all thought it was fireworks.”
“I once saw a girl covered in blood and I had never seen that before,” she said, describing “a sea of panic as people fell one by one.”
– ‘Armed and dangerous’ –
The shooting and stampede caused many casualties. “So far, we know that at least six people have died” and “24 have been hospitalized,” Mayor Nancy Rottering said at a news conference.
“As we come together to celebrate our freedom, we must mourn the tragic loss of life and overcome our terror,” she said.
Police said a “powerful” gun had been found, but the “armed and dangerous” suspect was still on the run, and called on residents to remain safe until his arrest.
“Evidence related to firearms was found on the roof of a nearby store,” said Christopher Coveley, a spokesperson for the county police, indicating that the shooter acted from that point on.
Chris O’Neill, a local police official, said the man was “about 18 to 20 years old, with long black hair and a white or blue shirt,” and called on the public to submit all photos and videos of the drama to help identify her. .
In the pictures of the city broadcast on television channels, we see policemen, some in military fatigues, driving through empty streets, sidewalks covered with camping chairs and strollers abandoned in a panic.
– ‘Surprised’ –
Adrienne Drell was watching a high school band when a man sounded the alarm. “Panic ran across the city,” she told the Chicago Sun-Times. “We are absolutely stunned.”
The parade was immediately suspended and festivities were canceled in several nearby towns.
The United States continues to suffer a series of shootings, including one at an elementary school in Ovaldi, Texas, on May 24 that left 21 people dead, including 19 children.
The country overall is facing an increase in gun violence with more than 22,000 people killed since the beginning of the year, according to the Archives of Gun Violence, which includes suicides in its data.