Highland Park shooting survivors sue Smith & Wesson, Robert Crimo III and shooter's father

ByMark Rivera, Eric Horng, and ABC7 Chicago Digital Team WLS logo
Thursday, September 29, 2022
Highland Park survivors sue gun manufacturer, shooter's father
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The survivors of the Highland Park shooting have sued the gun manufacturer Smith & Wesson and the shooter's father, according to court documents.

HIGHLAND PARK, Ill. (WLS) -- The survivors of the mass shooting in Highland Park, IL have sued the gun manufacturer Smith & Wesson, as well as the shooter, Robert Crimo III, and his father for their respective roles in making it possible for the shooter to carry out the massacre, according to court documents.

Online gun distributor Bud's Gu shop and Illinois gun retailer Red Sot Arms were also named in the lawsuit.

The lawsuits allege marketing images from gunmaker Smith & Wesson depicted first person, military-style confrontations that attract and inspire potential mass shooters.

The lawsuit says Smith and Wesson "facilitates violence for profit," and targets vulnerable young men to market their products too.

"The mass shooting at Highland Park's Fourth of July Parade was the foreseeable and entirely preventable result of a chain of events initiated by Smith & Wesson," the lawsuit filed in Illinois state court says. "For years, the manufacturer has deceptively and unfairly marketed its assault rifles in a way designed to appeal to the impulsive, risk-taking tendencies of civilian adolescent and post-adolescent males-the same category of consumers whom Smith & Wesson has watched, time after time, commit the type of mass shooting that unfolded again on the Fourth of July in Highland Park. Smith & Wesson's M&P rifles have been repeatedly used in such mass shootings, including those in Aurora, Colorado; San Bernardino, California; and Parkland, Florida."

RELATED: Cooper Roberts, boy paralyzed in Highland Park shooting, finally reunites with family at home

The mass shooting on the 4th of July killed seven and injured 48 after a shooter opened fire at an Independence day parade.

WATCH | Highland Park shooting survivor recounts terror of being shot

One of the many Highland Park parade shooting survivors described being shot multiple times

"Imagine a hot metal dartlike projectile tearing through your body at supersonic speed, faster than the speed of sound, you'll feel it burn through your skin," said Lauren Bennett, a Highland Park shooting victim.

Bennett was shot twice in her hip and back. Her husband shielded their children as they ran.

"We survived a battle zone that day and will carry the most horrendous images with us for the rest of our lives," she said.

While police say the assault-style rifle Crimo III allegedly used in the shooting, a Smith and Wesson M&P 15, was legally purchased, the lawsuit says Smith and Wesson "facilitates violence for profit," and targets vulnerable young men to market their products too.

ALSO SEE: Police say previous contact with Crimo family included 'clear and present danger' concerns

"The shooter fits the demographic of customers that Smith & Wesson targeted with its negligent and unlawful marketing," the lawsuit says. "An avid user of the social media platforms used by Smith & Wesson to promote its assault rifles, the shooter displayed his hardcore violent fantasies online, styling himself on one platform as a "Master Gunnery Sergeant," and on others as a video game assassin. He spewed hatred online and often posted videos of himself playing first-person-shooter games."

The lawsuit says that after the shooting, Smith and Wesson portrayed itself as the victim and outlines what the plaintiffs say is a pattern and history of marketing towards young men with a propensity for violence.

"Smith & Wessson's marketing campaigns don't just blur the line between fantasy and reality, they destroy it," said attorney Ari Scharg, with Edelson.

Jon Strauss' father Steven was killed in the shooting.

"We stand here today because of a growing cancer in the fabric of American life that threatens us all. Where desperate lost souls who can easily outfit themselves with military-grade weapons," Strauss said. "The pain, loss, and grief that we must endure is never ending. This time it was our family. Next time it could be yours."

RELATED: Accused parade shooter's dad says he doesn't regret sponsoring FOID card, says system needs overhaul

The shooter's father, the lawsuit says, is responsible because he sponsored the shooter's FOID card, which is necessary in the state of Illinois. The father, Robert Crimo, Jr., has previouslysaid he does not regret sponsoring his son for a FOID card that allowed him to legally purchase weapons, adding that he never expected this of his son.

WATCH | Son of Highland Park victim describes learning of father's death

The son of Steve Straus, one of the seven killed in the Highland Park mass shooting, described the moments he learned his father was among the victims.

Crimo, Jr. said he knew his son was in possession of a handgun, saying that he showed it to him, but said he did not know his son had purchased at least five weapons, including two high-powered rifles.

"I had no, not an inkling of warning that something like this was going to happen," Crimo Jr. previously said in a July interview with ABC News.

Both Strauss and Bennett said holding the gun manufacturer Smith and Wesson, and all those responsible for the shooting that killed seven and wounded dozens of others accountable is the only way forward.

"Their marketing of the M&P 15 was unfair and deceptive because they knew that these marketing and sales practices promote and sell an image that caters to and attracts individuals just like the shooter," said attorney Antonio Romanucci, with Romanucci & Blandin. "Their goal was to create eight million new gun owners, and how do they do it? They groom children."

Lawyers are calling it an unprecedented national coalition of gun control advocates suing Smith and Wesson for practices they say attract young men who may want to act out, "a perverse combat fantasy of killing as many people as possible."

"We believe that we will demonstrate to a jury that Smith & Wesson is out there training mass shooters as we speak in households all over the country," Scharg said.

The litigation filed nearly three months after the parade shooting faces a hurdle in a 2005 law that shields gun makers from liability.

"What we're seeing here is a creative effort to get around that law and to allege deceptive advertising in the hopes that that will be sustained by the court," ABC7 Legal Analyst Gil Soffer said.

Smith & Wesson did not respond to our request for comment, but its CEO last month said critics of the company's marketing practices are seeking to stop firearm manufacturers from advertising products in a way that reminds law-abiding citizens they have a constitutional right to bear arms. None of the others named in the lawsuit returned calls for comment Wednesday as well.

Meanwhile, the Highland Park City Council has agreed to take down the makeshift downtown memorials honoring the victims, with plans to replace it with a permanent monument.

Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering talks about plans to relocate memorial to the victims of o the July 4th parade shooting.

Mayor Nancy Rotering said council members are trying to strike a balance between those who have found comfort in the memorials and those who've been upset by them.

City officials said the Highland Park community will have a say on the location and content of the future memorial.

ABC News and ABC7 Chicago contributed to this report.