HIGHLAND PARK, Illinois—The 21-year-old Illinois man accused in Monday’s parade massacre is an amateur rapper who posted disturbing videos on his YouTube channel, including a crude animation depicting a gunman being killed by police.
In addition to videos filled with violent imagery and mass-shooting fantasy, Robert “Bobby” Crimo last year posted a video on his personal blog of Central Avenue in Highland Park—the main street of the parade route.
Another one showed a headline referring to Lee Harvey Oswald, the assassin of President John F. Kennedy. He reportedly posted video of a beheading to a message board.
Crimo, who was taken into custody about seven hours after a sniper attack left seven dead and dozens more injured, went by the name of Awake the Rapper on social media.
His social-media footprint indicated that he is a video-game enthusiast and professional wrestling fan. One photo posted to Twitter showed him wearing a Trump flag like a cape; in another, he sported an FBI cap. There was a photo of him at a Trump rally, dressed as Waldo, but he also liked a Twitter video of President Biden.
On most of Crimo’s social-media pages, and embedded in several of his videos, is a symbol that roughly resembles that used by Suomen Sisu, a far-right Finnish organization. Crimo, however, does not appear to mention the national group in his postings. He was also the administrator of a Discord channel named “SS” that has since been taken down.
An Instagram account also belonging to Crimo—whose family is from the Highland Park area—showcases several black-and-white portraits that reveal him with a tattoo of a number on one side of his temple and the word “Awake” above one of his eyebrows. Crimo also appears to have hatch marks that add up to five under his eye.
Mark Heymann, 22, told The Daily Beast he grew up with Crimo—and that they were in Cub Scouts together in elementary school—but “couldn’t say he knew him too well.”
“He was a year younger than me. I knew who he was and I knew his name,” Heymann said, adding that despite Crimo not being his friend, he knew “something off, something wasn’t right about him.”
“I don’t really know who his friends are or if he had any friends,” he added. “I don’t remember him in any specific friend group in high school, but he was definitely a loner.”
Heymann did say he remembered that Crimo “self-published rap songs back in high school” but said he never listened to them. Adding that he hadn’t thought about Crimo since high school, Heymann said he and his fellow classmates were in a “general state of shock” knowing that someone they grew up with could be involved in such a horrific crime in their tight-knit town.
“I think we are all just trying to make sense of what happened,” he said.
A neighbor who requested anonymity told The Daily Beast that Crimo would ride around the neighborhood and nearby nature preserves on an electric bicycle, blasting heavy metal. He used to drive a car with “pussymobile” written across the back of it.
“The family’s been in the area for a long time,” she said, adding that his father is a small business owner who ran for mayor of Highland Park in 2019 and lost in a two-to-one margin to the incumbent.
“We don’t really know him, but we see him riding around the neighborhood,” she said. “We never had any interaction with him, other than we just see him driving around.”
The incumbent mayor of Highland Park, Nancy Rotering, told TODAY on Tuesday that she knew Crimo when he was “just a little boy”—in fact, she was his Cub Scout leader.
“And it’s one of those things where you step back and you say, ‘What happened? How did somebody become this angry?” she said. “This hateful to then take it out on innocent people who, literally, were just having a family day out?”
Crimo's uncle, Paul Crimo, told Fox 23 Chicago that he saw no “warning signs” that would indicate he might be involved in Monday's shooting.
“I saw no signs of trouble. And if I did see signs I would have said something,” Crimo said, adding that his nephew was a “YouTube rapper” who once worked at Panera Bread.
Crimo’s videos, however, are full of dark themes.
In one, titled “On my Mind,” Crimo is seen inside an empty classroom in tactical gear and holding the American Flag. In another, he raps, “Like a sleepwalker, I am breaking through no matter what” alongside snippets of footage in which he appears to be armed.
The video titled “Toy Soldier” is an animated cartoon that begins with a student texting in class while Crimo can be heard rapping “fuck this world.” It cuts between images of a heavily armed shooter going inside a school and opening fire and then engaging with police outside. The final scene shows the shooter lying in a pool of blood.
Crimo also appeared to have a blog, where he posted several of his music videos and photos of himself. In one video titled “Smiley Face Soldier,” Crimo records himself painting an armed soldier with a yellow cartoon smiley face on a brick wall while the Star Wars theme song plays in the background.
NBC News reported that Crimo had his own Discord channel, which was disabled after the shooting, and that he frequents a message board devoted to death, where he posted the beheading video.
A listing for Crimo on the entertainment site IMDB describes him as a “six-foot Hip hop phenom” who is the “middle child of three and of Italian descent.”
This story has been updated to change Crimo’s age to 21