Police are responding to a shooting at a July Fourth parade in a Chicago suburb, authorities said Monday. Authorities have not officially reported any casualties, but witnesses described seeing bloodied bodies apparently covered with blankets.
The Chicago Sun-Times reported that the parade began around 10 am but was suddenly halted 10 minutes later after shots were fired. Several witnesses told the newspaper that they heard gunfire.
Hundreds of parade-goers — some visibly bloodied — fled the parade route, leaving behind chairs, baby strollers and blankets.
A Sun-Times reporter saw blankets placed over three bloodied bodies.
Police told people: “Everybody disperse, please. It is not safe to be here.” Video shot by a Sun-Times journalist after the gunfire rang out shows a band on a float continuing to play as people run past, screaming. A photo posted to social media appeared to show pools of blood near upturned chairs in downtown Highland Park.
Gina Troiani and her son were lined up with his daycare class ready to walk onto the parade route when she heard a loud sound that she believed were fireworks — until hearing people yell about a shooter.
“We just start running in the opposite direction,” she told The Associated Press.
Her son, 5, was riding his bike decorated with red and blue curled ribbons. He and other children in the group held small American flags. The city said on it’s website that the festivities were to include a children’s bike and pet parade.
Troiani said she pushed her son’s bike, running through the neighborhood to get back to their car.
In a video that Troiani shot on her phone, some of the kids are visibly startled at the loud noise and then scramble to the side of the road as a siren wails nearby.
”It was just sort of chaos,” she said. “There were people that got separated from their families, looking for them. Others just dropped their wagons, grabbed their kids and started running.” 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 a shooter,’” Glickman told the Associated Press. “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.” The Lake County Sheriff’s Office said on Twitter that it is assisting Highland Park Police “with a shooting in the area of the Independence Day parade route”. The sheriff’s office directed an AP reporter to contact Highland Park Police. The Police Department said no one was immediately available to discuss the incident.
City leaders said on Twitter that “police are responding to an incident in downtown Highland Park. Fourth Fest has been cancelled. Please avoid downtown Highland Park. More information will be shared as it becomes available”.
The city said on it’s website that the parade would feature floats, marching bands, novelty groups, community entries and other special entertainment.