A local Rabbi has told the Daily Caller News Foundation that the alleged Highland Park, Illinois, shooter visited his synagogue before his planned, indiscriminate, murderous rampage.
RTM previously reported that the mass shooting left seven people dead and forty injured.
Rabbi Yosef Schanowitz contacted the outlet after he recognized photos of Robert Crimo III, 22, who was arrested in connection with the shooting.
Rabbi Yosef Schanowitz told The Daily Caller that he observed Crimo acting in a “strange” manner when he entered the synagogue he serves.
Schanowitz noted that the encounter occurred during the Jewish Festival of Passover. “Besides looking a little strange,” the Rabbi explained, “there wasn’t an overt [threat]. People were on the alert to watch him.”
Schanowitz added: “[Perhaps]…he was sizing up the building? Who knows what goes on in his heart. He was just sitting there in a reclusive mode. A number of people went up to him and tried to engage or something. I don’t think they got much of a response, but we did have several people who are trained licensed carriers.”
Martin Blumenthal, the Synagogue’s Volunteer Security Director, also reached out to the Daily Caller News. He noted that Crimo “said his name was Bobby,” adding, “he was kind of looking around, and, now in retrospect, I’m sure he was just casing the building.”
“And he saw that we had security in place, and there was no way he was going to walk in with a rifle anyway.”
Blumenthal reports remembering Crimo’s distinctive tattoos on his face and neck and that he wore “goth attire,” adding that he searched Crimo at the time, but did not find any weapons.
Rabbi Schanowitz recalled asking Crimo for his name but did not receive a response. The Rabbi also noted he thought Crimo opened a prayer book at one point.
The New York Post reported that Crimo was “kicked out” of the synagogue, but Blumenthal disputes that report. Rabbi Schanowitz said, “He left on his own after some time.”
Authorities believe the Fourth of July shooting was carried out by one person, from a rooftop, and that he may have disguised himself as a woman to blend into the crowd to make his escape.
Rabbi Schanowitz reports that during the shooting, some people ran into the open doors of the synagogue for safety.
Crimo reportedly had encounters with law enforcement officers at least twice before—once for a suicide attempt, and the other was a threat to “kill everyone,” according to Lake County Sheriff Deputy Chief Christopher Covelli.
Covelli reports that at the time of his threat, officers “confiscated 16 knives, a dagger, and a sword from his home.”
Despite the young man’s troubled history, he legally purchased an AR-15 rifle, which he reportedly used to fire 70 rounds during the rampage.
The accused lived in a small apartment on his Uncle’s property. Paul Crimo made this statement to WFLD-TV:
“I just want to say I’m deeply, deeply sorry for everyone that lost their lives and got injured. From the bottom of my heart, I’m heartbroken, and my heart is shattered to hear this. I can’t even believe it.”