Police respond to a shooting during a July 4 parade in a Chicago suburb, authorities said Monday. Authorities have not officially reported any casualties, but witnesses described seeing bloodied bodies apparently covered in blankets.
The Chicago Sun-Times reported that the parade began around 10 a.m. but was suddenly halted 10 minutes later after gunfire. Several witnesses told the newspaper that they heard gunshots.
Hundreds of spectators – some visibly bloodied – fled the parade route, leaving behind chairs, strollers and blankets.
A Sun-Times reporter saw blankets placed over three bloodied bodies.
The police told people, “Everyone please disperse. It’s not safe to be here.”
Video shot by a Sun-Times reporter after the gunfire broke out shows a band on a tank continuing to play as people scream past. A photo posted to social media appeared to show pools of blood near overturned chairs in downtown Highland Park.
Gina Troiani and her son were lined up with her daycare class ready to march down the parade route when she heard a loud noise she thought was fireworks – until she heard people screaming about a shooter.
“We just start running in the opposite direction,” she told The Associated Press.
Her son, 5, was riding his bicycle decorated with red and blue curly ribbons. He and other children in the group held small American flags. The city said on its website that the festivities were to include a parade of bicycles and children’s animals.
Troiani said she pushed her son’s bike, driving through the neighborhood to get back to their car.
In a video Troiani shot on his phone, some of the children are visibly startled by the loud noise, then rush to the side of the road as a siren wails nearby.
It was just kind of a chaos,” she said. “There were people who were separated from their families, looking for them. Others just dropped their carts, grabbed their kids and started running.”
Highland Park resident Debbie Glickman said she was on a parade float with colleagues and the group was preparing to turn onto the main road when she saw people fleeing the area.
“People started saying, ‘There’s a shooter, there’s a shooter, there’s a shooter,'” Glickman told The Associated Press. “So we just ran. We just ran. It’s like mass chaos out there.”
She heard no noise and saw no one who appeared injured.
“I’m so freaked out,” she said. “It’s so sad.”
The Lake County Sheriff’s Office said on Twitter that it was assisting Highland Park Police “with a shootout in the Independence Day Parade route area.” The sheriff’s office ordered an AP reporter to contact Highland Park Police. The police department said no one was immediately available to discuss the incident.
City leaders said on Twitter that “Police are responding to an incident in downtown Highland Park. The fourth festival has been cancelled. Please avoid downtown Highland Park. More information will be shared as soon as possible. that they will be available.”
The city said on its website that the parade will include floats, marching bands, novelty bands, community entries and other special entertainment.