HIGHLAND PARK, Ill. — A portrait of Robert “Bobby” E. Crimo III as a mysterious, music-obsessed loner began appearing Tuesday, a day after his arrest following a mass shooting during a Fourth of July parade that left seven people dead and traumatized an affluent Chicago suburb.
Crimo, 21, who wore women’s clothing during the murderous rampage, aspired to be a rapper and his music became darker and wackier as he got older and his relationship with his parents and girlfriend frayed , said former friends.
“He was in his own world,” Nick Pacileo, 22, said.
“There were a lot of red flags,” added another former Highland Park High School classmate, who asked not to be identified.
Pacileo said he and Crimo bonded over skateboarding and were friends from eighth to 10th grade. He used words like “shy” and “quiet” to describe Crimo’s personality. He said the suspected rooftop sniper never talked about guns and would “walk away a lot.”
But when Crimo turned 18, just as he broke up with his girlfriend, his personality changed, Pacileo said.
“Bobby was depressed,” Pacileo said. “He also lost his mind after breaking up with his girlfriend a few years ago.”
Crimo was obsessed with her, he said, and instead of therapy he turned to drugs.
“He definitely thought there was a boundary in the mind that needed to be broken through the mind,” he said. “Third eye stuff that goes hand in hand with psychedelic rap and drugs.”
Crimo also had a strained relationship with his parents, who were struggling to make ends meet in the posh suburb, Pacileo said.
The suspect’s mother declined to speak about her son when an NBC News reporter approached her for comment.
“Get off my property,” she said outside her house before jumping into a black SUV.
Police reported on Tuesday that in April 2019 they were tipped off after Crimo threatened to kill himself. They also received reports in September 2019 from family members saying, “Crimo was going to kill everyone.”
“At this time, there was no probable cause” to arrest Crimo, Deputy Chief Christopher Covelli of the Highland Park Police Department said.
“Everyone knew Bobby was gone, but he just – he never gave any signs that he was capable of that degree of violence in my opinion,” Pacileo said.
Crimo “scared me because of all the violent things he posted,” said the former classmate who asked not to be identified. “His rap and lyrics were very violent and just weird and he scared the crap out of me.”
In addition, Crimo was constantly in trouble with his teachers. “You always saw him wandering the halls,” the ex-classmate said.
One of the reasons Crimo kept clashing with his teachers was because he spent more time promoting his music than studying, said Ethan Absler, who also attended Highland Park High School.
“He was disruptive in class trying to promote his music — distracting people, asking people to check out his SoundCloud,” Absler said.
Crimo also put up stickers promoting his music throughout the school, Absler said. But by the end of their sophomore year in 2017, Crimo was gone.
“When he left Highland Park High School, I understand he left to pursue music,” Absler said. “Then reports that he attended this school for special needs children also came out.”
The school Crimo allegedly attended is North Shore Academy, also located in Highland Park.
“We have received several media inquiries asking whether or not Robert Crimo III attended North Shore Academy,” school superintendent Kurt Schneider said. “The reported information is inaccurate. He never attended North Shore Academy.”
Absler said he lost contact with Crimo after that. And then, on Monday, Crimo resurfaced – this time as a suspected mass shooter who terrorized his hometown.
“I slapped my knee and said, ‘I know this kid! ‘” Absler said, when asked what he was thinking when he learned that Crimo was in custody. ” I could not believe it. It’s just scary to know that you met someone, that you walked down the same halls, that we were in the same gym class one year. In this age of school shootings, does that make you wonder how close I or one of my peers was to it in school? »
“His YouTube has always been like red flags and scary,” the ex-classmate said. “He was saying violent stuff there.”
Crimo, the ex-classmate said, was “a believer in nothing. Like nothing, no faith, nothing.
At the same time, Crimo also posted racist rants on Snapchat “to the point that I unfollowed him on Snapchat anymore,” the ex-classmate said.
Pacileo said he was not surprised by the latest revelation that Crimo disguised himself by dressing as a woman.
“It doesn’t surprise me because when Bobby decides to do something, he goes out of his way and will do anything to make it happen,” Pacileo said. “I think it was like years of trauma, of psychedelic drug abuse, you know, that just made him see a version of reality that wasn’t ours.”
Safia Samee Ali and Natasha Korecki reported from Highland Park, Illinois, and Corky Siemaszko from New York.