'It was just a sea of panic': Witnesses recount sheer terror during Highland Park parade shooting in Chicago

One witness described the incident 'as a battle zone'. People were running and some of them were injured and smeared with blood


                            'It was just a sea of panic': Witnesses recount sheer terror during Highland Park parade shooting in Chicago
Witnesses of the Highland Park Chicago shooting described their horrific encounter with the shooting (Photo by Jim Vondruska/Getty Images)
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CHICAGO, ILLINOIS: Robert E Crimo III, the suspect in a mass shooting at a Fourth of July parade left six dead and sent more than two dozen people to the hospitals. Highland Park Fire Chief Joe Schrage said his department transported 23 people to hospitals. Witnesses of the Highland Park Chicago shooting described the horrific encounter that disrupted their peaceful parade. Miles Zaremski, a witness of the mass shooting told CNN he heard what he believed to be about 20 to 30 gunshots, in two consecutive spurts of gunfire, at about 10:20 am. CT, shortly after the start of the parade. He described the scene as chaotic as he saw a number of people bloodied and on the ground.

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Warren Fried, who attended the parade with his wife and seven-year-old twins was one of the lucky few. He said he watched the police and ambulance pass by him at the parade and afterward heard an array of gunshots. People began yelling "shooter" and "run" and he and his family fled toward their car for safety." People were hiding, kids were on the streets looking for their parents, just in a state of shock," he told CNN. "Everyone scattered and ran. As I was going around I came across a group of young kids who were trying to call their parents to say they were OK," he said. "So I stopped and offered them to use my phone. There were a lot of cars moving, so I helped to direct traffic for a bit."

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The shooting occurred on July 4 in Highland Park, about 25 miles north of Chicago, and began shortly after 10 am CT as parade-goers thronged to view the passing parade along Central Avenue.  

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First responders work the scene of a mass shooting at a Fourth of July parade on July 4, 2022 in Highland Park, Illinois. At least six people were killed and 19 injured, according to published reports. (Photo by Jim Vondruska/Getty Images)

Steve Tilken, a Highland Park resident told CNN that he sheltered in a store basement with his wife, her two grandchildren and dozens of others. "My wife just stood there -- was standing for like a second or two -- and then she realized what was going and so she dove down to protect their bodies with her body and I stood for another like couple of seconds in disbelief because I didn't see the carnage that was happening back of me. And I threw my body on top of theirs," he said. "We were just sitting ducks right there and one bullet could pass through all of our bodies," he said.

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"My wife's granddaughter, she was shaken but in the basement, she, you know, tapped into some inner resources and was trying to be helpful to people with young kids and helping keeping the kids entertained and actually helping the two woman that had some of the minor wounds," Tilken said. He said he went out of the store at one stage to try to see what was happening and saw a body "in a pool of blood," about eight feet from where he was standing. "I realized ... it's just your random luck that I wasn't shot."

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Cmdr. Chris O'Neill of the Highland Park Police speaks to the media after a mass shooting at a Fourth of July parade on July 4, 2022 in Highland Park, Illinois. (Photo by Jim Vondruska/Getty Images)

Larry Bloom, who was at the parade when shots began, said at first spectators thought the "popping" sound was part of the parade. "You heard like a 'pop, pop, pop,' and I think everybody kind of thought maybe it was a display on one of the floats and then it just opened up," Bloom said. "I was screaming and people were screaming," Bloom said. "They were panicking and they were just scattering and I, you know, we didn't know. You know, it was right on top of us." One witness described the incident "as a battle zone". People were running and some of them were injured and smeared with blood. "Run, run, run -- there's a shooter, there's a shooter!'", a witness recalled.

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Zoe Pawelczak recalled being at the parade with her dad. Describing the horrific turn of events, she told CNN: " "I'm like, 'Dad, no ... something is wrong,' and I grabbed him" and ran." People behind them started running, too. "And I looked back ... and then it was just this sea of panic, and people just falling and falling," she recalled.

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Dr David Baum, who was at the parade and helped treat people injured in the shooting, told NBC Chicago that he saw several people shot."The bodies that I saw, it was not an image that anyone who's not a physician would have an easy time processing," Baum said. A total of 26 patients were received at Highland Park Hospital, shared Dr Brigham Temple, the medical director of the NorthShore University Health System. The patients ranged in age from 8 years old to 85 years old -- four or five were children, according to Temple. Nineteen of the 25 gunshot victims were treated and have been discharged. There were gunshot wounds to extremities as well as more central parts of bodies, he added.

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According to data compiled by the Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit tracking such incidents, the Highland Park Chicago incident marks at least the 308th mass shooting in the US this year. There have been 11 mass shootings in the first four days of July, including three on July 4 alone, in Richmond, Virginia; Chicago and Highland Park, according to the Gun Violence Archive.

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