Gunman behind July 4 mass shooting near Chicago pleads not guilty

Highland Park gunman enters plea during arraignment on 117 charges connected to attack

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A man accused of opening fire on spectators watching an Independence Day parade in a suburb of Chicago in the US state of Illinois pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to 117 charges connected to the attack, including 21 counts of first-degree murder, local media reported.

Robert Crimo made his plea on a grand jury indictment during an arraignment hearing in a circuit court in Lake County Circuit Court, The Chicago Sun Times reported.

He has been held without bail since he was arrested after the shooting at the Fourth of July celebration in Highland Park, which left seven people dead and more than three dozen injured. If convicted on the murder charges, he would face a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

The bloodshed was part of a recent flare-up of mass shootings in the US, fuelling a long-running debate between advocates of tighter controls on gun ownership and those who oppose any restrictions on the constitutional right to bear arms.

Two of the most prominent of those attacks took place at a school in Uvalde, Texas, where a gunman shot and killed 19 children and two teachers, and at a supermarket in a predominately black neighbourhood in Buffalo, New York, where a shooting rampage left 10 people dead.

The Highland Park gunman had planned the attack for weeks, prosecutors said.

On the morning of the parade, he climbed to a rooftop along the parade route and fired more than 70 rounds at spectators lining the street below, court documents show. He then made a getaway dressed in women's clothing and makeup to cover his facial tattoos.

A Smith & Wesson semi-automatic rifle, similar to an AR-15, was found at the scene, and a similar weapon was discovered in a car driven by Mr Crimo when he was arrested, prosecutors said.

Updated: August 03, 2022, 5:41 PM