Days after a gunman opened fire at a Fourth of July parade, Alberto Fuentes arrived at a downtown memorial site for the victims, asking himself a question that now haunts many in this shattered Chicago suburb: Could the 21-year-old suspect’s parents have prevented it?
“The boy had problems”, said Fuentes, 40. “I also have children and, if I see something like that, It is my responsibility. Parents had a responsibility to do something.”
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Millions of American parents now worry that their children will be the victims of a mass shooting. But a different nightmare exists for the small but growing group of parents whose children, almost always boys, they pull the trigger.
Some have spent months or years before the attacks worrying about their children’s mental health and seeking help to no avail. But most don’t alert authorities before an attack, researchers say, and those parents may face scorn and accusations that they they ignored the warning signs or even allowed the attacks by letting their children get hold of deadly weapons.
Later, some parents change their names and leave town. A few tell their story to avoid future attacks. Others try to disappear with their silence.
“It’s scary enough to think that you can be the victim of a random act of violence,” said Andrew Solomon, an author who interviewed the parents of the attackers at Colorado’s Columbine High School and Connecticut’s Sandy Hook Elementary School. “But to think that they can call your attention by Not knowing that your son has caused this is also a terrible fate.”.
The parents of the man charged in the Highland Park shooting have come under scrutiny following the attack that killed seven people and left scores more injured. Police officers released records detailing that the father sponsored his son to get a gun license of fire in 2019 despite incidents where it is said that her son attempted suicide with a machete and lured police to his home because, officers said, he threatened to “kill everyone.” The father has said that he did nothing wrong and that he was shocked by what happened.
As more of the country’s deadliest mass shootings are carried out by teen and twenties killers, prosecutors and investigators are targeting parents to unravel how their children become radicalized, what interventions might have stopped them, and whether parents who ignore obvious warnings or provide their children with weapons should be held criminally responsible. According to data from the Violence Project, more than 50 people under the age of 25 have killed at least four people in a public setting since 1966. That data excludes mass murders attributed to gang activity, robbery or other underlying crimes.
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Sometimes Parents are charged with negligence or manslaughter after a child accidentally shoots himself or herself or someone else with a misplaced gun. It is much more rare for parents to be charged after their children carry out a shooting.
However, a handful of recent cases suggest that may be changing, as law enforcement seeks new ways to combat the rise in mass shootings.
“This is virgin territory when it comes to parental responsibility for their children’s behavior,” said Frank Kaminski, police chief of Park Ridge, Illinois, another Chicago suburb. And he added: “I am in favor of holding everyone responsible for weapons.”.
When a 15-year-old in Michigan was accused of massacring four classmates last year, his parents were charged with involuntary manslaughter; they pleaded not guilty. And after a 29-year-old man went on a killing spree at a Nashville, Tennessee, Waffle House in 2018, the man’s father, an Illinois resident, was charged in that state with illegally furnishing the gun used at the restaurant.
Authorities said the Waffle House gunman had been treated for mental health issues and subsequently lost his gun permit in Illinois. When that happened, they claimed, he transferred possession of the weapons to his father. When the son moved out, authorities said, the father returned a rifle to him, which they say is a crime.
However, Michael Doubet, attorney for Jeffrey Reinking, father of the Waffle House shooter, said there is a need to distinguish between the responsibilities of the parents of a juvenile offender and those of the parents of someone who carries out a mass shooting as a legal adult. . Reinking was convicted of unlawful delivery of a firearm and is awaiting sentencing.
“When people have over 18, out of parental controlDoubt commented.
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Researchers say some parents of troubled children don’t always know where to go for help. They are hesitant to call the police about their children’s mental health problems, before they turn violent, for fear of the lasting effect on their child’s history.
The researchers found deep denial in a case like the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. A detailed State report revealed that the 20-year-old shooter’s mother ignored calls from medical experts for her son to receive mental health treatment at the years before the shooting and did not restrict their access to weapons as his mental health deteriorated. The mother, Nancy Lanza, was one of the 27 people her son killed.
Highland Park massacre suspect Robert E. Crimo III had lived with his father, Robert Crimo Jr, for the past six months, and with his mother, Denise Pesina, before that, a family attorney said. After the attack, according to police, he fled the city in his mother’s car before being arrested. He was charged with manslaughter and ordered held without bail.
Neither of the accused attacker’s parents have been charged with any crime. Authorities have responded noncommittally to questions about whether they are investigating the father, saying “everything is on the table.” A public defender representing the son declined to comment on the case against his client or whether the parents were at fault. George Gomez, an attorney representing the parents, said they declined to be interviewed for this article.
In recent media interviews, the older Crimo said he was not involved in the shooting and that he had no idea what his son might have been planning.
He defended his decision to sponsor his son’s application for a gun owner’s license in 2019, saying he was following the legal process Illinois had created for anyone under the age of 21 to acquire a gun owner identification card from fire. Given the father’s sponsorship, state police said they had no legal basis to deny the son’s application.
“I filled out the consent form to allow my son to go through the process: they do background checks, whatever that entails,” Crimo said in an interview with ABC News.
State police said the document the older Crimo signed included a provision that said he “will be liable for any damages resulting from the minor applicant’s use of firearms or firearm ammunition.”
The son of the Crimo bought the high powered rifle which police say he used in the parade attack before turning 21, at which point he would have been able to apply for a license without the need for sponsorship. She was 21 at the time of the shooting, which police say was carried out after she climbed onto a rooftop in downtown Highland Park during the parade and fired more than 80 bullets into the crowd.
Before the attack, Robert Crimo Jr. was well known in the community, running delicatessens in the city and running unsuccessfully for mayor. His wife, Pesina, had a natural therapy business.
Along the way, there were signs that her son was in trouble. She dropped out of Highland Park High School in 2016, shortly before starting her sophomore year, authorities said, and never graduated from that school.
“It was like if i were invisible”, assured Kate Kramer, 21, who knew him in high school.
The researchers claim that friends, classmates and contacts on the internet of the aggressors are usually the first to realize the threat that hangs over them. Even if they report it, it is no guarantee that an attack will be stopped. Before a 19-year-old shooter killed seventeen people at a Parkland, Florida, school, there were multiple tips to police that he was armed and could shoot up a school.
In April 2014, a Californian mother gave warnings who led sheriff’s deputies to the apartment of her 22-year-old son, who lived in Isla Vista, California. Authorities interviewed him, but he did not meet the strict requirements for involuntary hospitalization, said Jeffrey W. Swanson, a Duke University sociologist who studies gun violence prevention.
the following month, the 22-year-old killed six people and committed suicide. After the events, the attacker’s father, Peter Rodger, sat down with Richard Martinez, whose son Christopher was among the victims. Martinez said he filled his car with artwork, trophies, writings and other memorabilia from his athletic son, who loved driving with the sunroof open and exposed to the wind.
Martinez, who has since become an outspoken supporter of stricter gun laws, said he believed some parents of attackers should be held criminally responsible if they did not try to prevent an attack or make it possible for their children to arm themselves.
“They just wanted me to tell them about Chris. And that’s what I did,” said Martínez, recalling the meeting with the other father. “We never talked about his son.”