HIGHLAND PARK, Ill. (WLS) -- Highland Park Police Chief Louis Jogmen sat down with ABC7's Cate Cauguiran to break down the July 4 parade shooting and the repercussions this community must now live with.
The day began like any other; perhaps even more beautiful than recent July Fourths. The community was coming together again after two long years of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We were seeing some of the people we haven't seen for a long time, you know, with everything that's gone on," he said. "Handing out baseball cards and greeting the kids and lots of smiles. And yeah, around 10:15 that changed."
WATCH: Full interview with Chief Jogmen
Jogmen said that while people watching the parade, which had only just begun, may have confused the sound of gunfire with fireworks or some other part of the celebration, he and his officers knew immediately what it was.
"It was loud, it was fast. And it was really hard to pinpoint where it was coming from, because the sound was reverberating off of the buildings in the downtown area," he recalled.
Police didn't know where the gunman was and had trouble finding him. Watching people run in one direction they knew it was likely he was in the opposite direction, but it was difficult to see and difficult to pinpoint where the sound of gunfire was coming from. Jogmen said their training kicked in immediately.
"I will say that the training that we've received here and we provide here really did prepare us for that," he said. "While I think we all hoped it would never, ever happen here, or anywhere, we certainly are realistic and wanted to make sure that if it ever did, we would be able to do what we needed to do to save and protect our Highland Park residents and so we've really committed to training and equipment."
As firefighters, paramedics and civilian staff rushed to help the wounded and usher the rest of the crowd to safety, Jogmen and his officers focused on trying to find the shooter.
"So the first instinct for us in law enforcement, for certainly the men and women of the Highland Park Police Department, was to end the threat. And so our first actions worked toward doing that really quickly, and then he had an escape plan and he made an escape," he said. "And so that uncertainty was what really gripped me next, and really kept with me for the next few hours."
Jogmen said as his officers worked as many social media leads as they could find, the ATF were able to trace the weapon the gunman left behind at what he called "miraculous" speed.
"That was the first time, when we identified a suspect, that I really felt that we were going to have the closure and have the justice that those families so, so much deserved," he said.
Police quickly released a description of the suspect and his vehicle, and then, shortly after, a photo and a name: Robert "Bobby" E. Crimo III.
Jogmen said it was a North Chicago citizen who spotted the car and called police, triggering a collaborative effort to find the shooter. Officials said after the shooting, Crimo went to his mother's house and borrowed her 2010 Honda Fit, which he drove to Madison, Wisconsin, and contemplated but ultimately did not carry out another shooting. He then returned to Illinois, where he was spotted and arrested.
The capture was not a celebration, but a relief and consolation.
"You don't want to find yourself celebrating in any way that you've caught the person, but it's so hard not to feel happy for that moment," he said. "And I will tell you, the moment he was stopped, the room erupted. I mean, it was just a visceral, uncontrollable reaction to the fact that he was in custody and we got the person that did this."
But the massacre has left a deep impression on Chief Jogmen and the entire community of Highland Park, one that is unlikely to fade any time soon.
"I can recall a family that I handed the baseball card to, you know, maybe a half hour earlier at the parade route beginning, and to see their face after and before... the dichotomy of that certainly stays with me," he said. There's no question that'll leave a lasting mark."
With the nation's eyes now on Highland Park, Jogmen offered a message not just to his community but all of America.
"I truly don't know the answer," he said. "I mean, in this moment in time I certainly can assure you that if there was an answer, even as uncomfortable as it might be, I think everybody's at the place where we'd get there and be acceptable, because this can't keep going on."
Now the community of Highland Park and its police department, first responders, and the survivors are turning their attention to healing.
"My department is devastated," he said. "I have a lot of friends and family in the community. I live in the community. My family's here. My wife and daughter were there, not too far from where he was shooting. So it is very personal to us. And we are absolutely devastated."