Experts say the case against the father of alleged Illinois parade shooter is unusual, but justified: ‘Everything…points to ongoing and escalating antisocial behavior’
CHICAGO — The upcoming trial of Robert Cremo Jr. on reckless conduct charges is an unusual case, according to experts, prosecutors and defense attorneys.
Only on a few occasions have parents faced prosecution for their children’s actions in America’s long and bloody history of mass shootings committed by young adults.
Cremo Jr.’s trial is scheduled to begin in Lake County District Court on Monday.
Prosecutors say Cremo Jr. took a “reckless and unjustified risk” in sponsoring his son’s Firearm Ownership Identification (FOID) application, and should have known his son was disturbed, making him a poor candidate for gun ownership.
Cremo’s son, Robert Cremo III, then purchased firearms that authorities say he used to spray more than 70 rounds of ammunition down busy Central Avenue during the Independence Day Parade in Highland Park last year.
Crimo the Younger killed seven people and injured dozens on July 4, according to police. He faces seven counts of murder and remains in custody. The elder Cremo remains free on bond.
Cremo Jr. faces charges of reckless conduct, a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison. When the conduct causes physical harm to — or endangers the safety of — another person, it can be charged as a felony, punishable by one to three years in prison.
Experts on gun violence said that this type of accusation is unprecedented, but no other case of mass violence has witnessed this type of guilt.
Crimo III showed almost every warning sign of a dangerous person, and a rational parent would have held the son accountable, rather than signing the gun for a license, said Lori Anne Post, a professor of medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, who has studied decades of mass shooting events.
“Bravo to the prosecutor for going after the father, because in this case not only was the father involved in making him a mass shooter, but the father was complicit in arming him,” Post said.
Post likened the situation to a car accident caused by someone leaving a house party where alcohol was being served.
“People have been accused of negligence in this matter as well, and this is something much deeper,” she said.
Cremo signed government forms in December 2019 requesting that his then-minor son purchase firearms, authorities said.
the document The elder Cremo who signed his son’s firearm application included a clause stating that he “shall be responsible for any damages resulting from the minor applicant’s use of firearms or firearm ammunition.”
It’s a parent’s responsibility to evaluate whether their minor child should own a gun before signing a FOIA request, and to understand the liability associated with the affidavit, said Richard Pearson, executive director of the Illinois Rifle Association.
“We support the idea that there are some people who should not own firearms,” Pearson said. “It is the parents’ duty to correct this (for their minor children).”
Earlier in 2019, Highland Park police were called to Cremo’s home twice — once when the younger Cremo was threatening to kill himself with a machete, and a second time when he was threatening to harm others, authorities said.
On the second occasion, responding officers confiscated 16 knives, daggers and a sword from the possession of Kremo III. The elder Cremo later claimed that the confiscated knives belonged to him.
Police had no probable cause to make an arrest and no one signed a complaint against Crimo III, according to Sgt. Chris Covelli, spokesman for the Lake County Major Crimes Task Force. But Highland Park police reported the incident to the Illinois State Police, the agency that issues gun permits in Illinois.
Pearson said there were many red flags in the Cremo 3 case, and “a lot of guilt that could be overlooked.”
Since 2021, the Lake County State’s Attorney’s Office has filed more than 80 reckless conduct cases, but none of those cases involved parents sponsoring FOID requests for troubled teens, according to the office.
At least two of the cases involved adults who allowed children to obtain firearms, authorities said.
“The fact that no other charges have been filed similar to Mr. Cremo’s case only goes to show how rare Cremo’s reckless and criminal actions are with regard to an assault weapon,” a representative for the state’s Attorney’s Office said in an email statement.
While attempts to reach Cremo Jr.’s defense attorney, Jorge Gomez, have been unsuccessful, Gomez has previously stated that the charges against the father hinge on questions of law, not facts, about whether the action constitutes a crime.
“It is a rare case with rare facts,” Gomez said in July.
Often times, parents of mass shooters do not take responsibility for their children’s actions. However, the parents of the young alleged mass shooter in Michigan face manslaughter charges in the November 2021 shooting at Oxford High School.
Prosecutors say James and Jennifer Crumbley should have anticipated the carnage and intervened beforehand. The parents bought their son the gun used in the shooting, despite knowing he struggled with mental health. On the morning of the shooting, parents were called to school because of a disturbing drawing, but did not bring it home.
Post, who has studied the profiles of mass shooters, said many of them are not held accountable by their parents for their behavior before mass violence occurred.
As a sophomore, Cremo III dropped out of high school, which Post said is almost universal among mass shooters.
“Sophomores are 16 years old. In hindsight, he’s 21 and commits mass murder, so he was enabled all those years and wasn’t allowed to do anything,” Post said.
She said a rational-minded parent would set limits for their teens, hold them accountable and ask them to go to school or work.
In addition, Post said, many mass shooters suffer from parental neglect, or are exposed to violence at home, leaving parents ill-equipped to notice the potential harm their children may cause.
“The apple didn’t fall far from the tree,” Post said. “They’re not good parents to begin with, so they’re not really in a good position to determine that this person is OK. Everything about (Crimo III) points to ongoing and escalating anti-social behavior.”
Parents are sometimes accused of violating child access prevention laws, which require firearm owners to safely lock their firearms so young people can’t access them, said Daniel Webster, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, but Cremo Jr. charges . Unprecedented.
“It kind of contributes very directly to the homicides, rather than just kind of negligently with safe storage,” Webster said.
A report from the Center for Gun Violence Solutions at Johns Hopkins University found that Illinois is an “outlier” in allowing parents or guardians of 18- to 21-year-olds to acquire gun ownership.
The report notes that people in this age group have high rates of homicide and suicide, and engage in risky behavior that leads to gun injury as well.
Webster, who has studied parents’ views on firearms in the home, said parents generally don’t realize, or deny, that their teen may be experiencing suicidal thoughts and the extent to which firearms are related to their child’s survival.
He suspects there is more denial that a child committed a heinous act, such as a mass shooting.
When it comes to parents who own guns, Webster said they usually don’t think of guns as something risky.
“A lot of (gun owners’) mentality is that it’s not about the guns. ‘If someone wants to do something terrible, they’ll do something terrible,'” Webster said. “There are profound cultural differences in how people think about guns, and whether they pose a problem.” “Inherent risks, even under notable circumstances.”