A father who fled a mass shooting in Highland Park, Illinois, with his young daughters in his arms has hit out at anyone who would blame mental illness for such killings.
Hunter Stuart was attending a Fourth of July parade in the city north of Chicago with his family on Monday when shots suddenly rang out.
The writer grabbed his two girls and ran, later hiding out at a stranger’s home for several hours after becoming separated from his wife amid the chaos.
Recounting the moments after the gunman opened fire, the former Huffington Post news editor wrote on Twitter: “I ran from a mass shooting today with my two little girls in my arms. We got separated from my wife.
“We hid behind a car and then sheltered in the apartment of some good Samaritans for 5 hours watching swat teams from the windows.
“We are all ok but we’re angry, very very angry.”
He later added: “I don’t want to hear anyone blame this on mental illness, for example. There are hundreds of millions of people with mental illness who don’t go shooting innocent people at a parade.”
Six people were killed and at least 36 more injured after a gunman perched on a rooftop opened fire on families waving flags and children riding bikes at the Independence Day event in Highland Park.
The scene was described as “pandemonium” as crowds of people fled the area, abandoning tricycles, chairs and prams in a desperate bid to escape.
Retired doctor Richard Kaufman, standing across the street from where the gunman opened fire, said he heard about 200 shots “like fireworks going off”.
“It was pandemonium,” he said. “People were covered in blood tripping over each other.”
A 36-year-old native of Highland Park who wanted to be identified only as Sara said she had attended the parade most years since her childhood.
“Not even five minutes after, very shortly after, the police and fire trucks part of the parade had gone by I heard ‘pop, pop, pop, pop, pop,’” she said, adding that she first thought they were muskets sometimes used in walls.
“The popping didn’t stop… again it went ‘pop, pop, pop, pop, pop’ and I turned and I said ‘those are gun shots, run!’”
Hours after the shooting, police announced they had arrested 22-year-old Robert E Crimo III, who is from the area, following a brief chase.
It later emerged the ‘person of interest’ is an amateur rapper who goes by the stage name “Awake the Rapper” and has more than 16,000 listeners per month on his Spotify page with a net worth of $100,000 (£82,645).
Nicolas Toledo, aged in his 70s, was the first victim identified late on Monday by his relatives.
The grandfather was visiting from Mexico and had been enjoying a family day out when he was killed.
Some of his relatives were also wounded but are expected to survive, CBS Chicago reported.
Another person killed in the shooting was Jacki Sundheim, a teacher at a Highland Park synagogue. The North Shore Congregation Israel confirmed her death in an email to congregants.
Additional reporting by agencies