A gunman perched on a rooftop has opened fire on families waving flags and children riding bicycles during an Independence Day parade near the US city of Chicago, killing at least six people and wounding 36 others.
The shooting in Highland Park, a community of about 30,000 residents some 40km north of Chicago, Illinois, caused panicked mayhem on Monday as hundreds of marchers, including parents with strollers, fled the scene in terror.
Hours later, authorities said a man named as a “person of interest” in the shooting was taken into police custody.
He was identified as 22-year-old Robert E Crimo III.
Christopher Covelli, a spokesperson for the Lake County Major Crime Task Force, told reporters the attacker apparently used a “high-powered rifle” to fire from a spot atop a building where he was “very difficult to see”.
“Very random, very intentional and a very sad day,” he said.
The shooting comes as the United States struggles to stem a surge in gun violence and after a string of recent deadly incidents, including a massacre at a Texas primary school, has renewed calls for stricter gun regulations in the country.
“Our community was terrorised by an act of violence that has shaken us to our core. Our hearts go out to the families of the victims during this devastating time,” Mayor Nancy Rotering told reporters on Monday afternoon.
The Chicago Sun-Times newspaper reported that the parade began at about 10am local time but was suddenly halted 10 minutes later after shots were fired.
“It sounded like fireworks going off,” said retired doctor Richard Kaufman who was standing across the street from where the gunman opened fire, adding that he heard about 200 shots.
Highland Park Police Chief Lou Jogmen said a police officer pulled over Crimo III about 8km north of the shooting scene, several hours after police released the man’s photo and an image of his silver Honda Fit, and warned the public that he was likely armed and dangerous.
Police said they did not know what the motive was for the shooting in Highland Park.
Gun violence has been a problem across the US for years, drawing condemnation and calls for gun control, especially in the aftermath of mass shootings.
Late last month, US President Joe Biden signed into law the first major federal gun reform in 30 years. The bill includes provisions to toughen background checks for the youngest gun buyers, keep firearms from more domestic violence offenders, and help states put in place red-flag laws that make it easier for authorities to take weapons from people deemed to be dangerous.
In a statement on Monday afternoon on the attack in Highland Park, Biden expressed shock at “the senseless gun violence that has yet again brought grief to an American community on this Independence Day”.
He pledged assistance to the Illinois community and said federal law enforcement were assisting in the search for the attacker.
The US has seen 308 mass shootings so far this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive, a US non-profit that defines a mass shooting as any incident in which four or more people are shot or killed, not including the attacker.