The 21-year-old charged with killing 7 and injuring 48 more during a Fourth of July parade in Highland Park, Illinois, has pleaded not guilty.
The suspect, who is not being named per Daily Wire policy, previously told police that he fired more than 80 shots from a rooftop above the parade route. On Wednesday, however, the suspect pleaded not guilty, Fox News reported.
Last week, the suspect was indicted on 117 counts for the mass shooting, including 21 counts of first-degree murder – three counts per deceased victim – the outlet reported. The charges also include 48 counts of attempted murder and another 48 accounts of aggravated battery with a firearm – one count of each for every person injured in the attack.
Forty-seven people were named as victims in the filing charges (even though there are more victims), the judge said at the suspect’s Wednesday arraignment. Around two dozen family members and friends of the victims appeared in court at the time.
As The Daily Wire previously reported, Assistant State’s Attorney Ben Dillon told a judge at the Lake County Courthouse in early July that the suspect made “a voluntary statement confessing to his actions.”
Dillon further told the judge that the suspect confessed to finding a position on a rooftop along the parade route and “looked down his sights and opened fire.” Dillon added that police discovered 83 shell casings on that rooftop.
Defense attorney Scott Greenfield explained to The Daily Wire why someone who confessed in this matter would still plead not guilty.
“The defendant is always told to plead ‘not guilty’ at arraignment in order to allow his lawyer to engage in discovery, motion practice and plea negotiations,” Greenfield said. “It’s entirely normal and reflects nothing about ‘innocence’ per se, but allows the lawyer room to do his job of zealously representing the defendant, no matter how overwhelming the evidence of guilty.”
Five people died at the scene, while two more died after being taken to a hospital. Dozens more were hit during the attack.
The suspect was concerned that police would recognize him following the shooting, so he dressed in women’s clothing and makeup to cover his tattoos and avoid detection. He climbed down a fire escape and disappeared into the crowd, leaving the rifle he used on the rooftop. Police were able to identify him from surveillance cameras, however.
The suspect then went to his mother’s house and drove her car to Madison, Wisconsin, in a possible attempt to throw off authorities. The suspect left his phone, which was being tracked by police, in Madison, and then drove back to Chicago where he was arrested.
While the suspect had no criminal record, he had been on the police’s radar due to two calls from family members in 2019. The first call came in response to a suicide attempt, and the second came from a family member who said the suspect threatened to “kill everybody.” That family member also told police at the time that the suspect had a large collection of knives. Police removed 16 knives, one dagger, and one sword from the suspect’s home before filing a “clear and present danger report” with the Illinois State Police, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
Despite this determination, the suspect was able to purchase the firearms used in the Independence Day attack because his father co-signed his Firearm Owners Identification (FOID) card, something all gun owners in Illinois must have, The Daily Wire reported. At the time the card was issued, the suspect was just 19, even though the minimum age in Illinois to purchase a firearm is 21.