Michele Rebollar remembers the moment during that of her son Anthony LaPorte funeral when Bobby Crimo—now in charge of slaughter seven people and injuring two dozen others during Chicago’s Fourth of July Parade — rose to speak.
It was August 2017 and the long-haired, clumsy Crimo described how Anthony was one of the few people he had to confide in. “My name is Bobby, and Anthony was the person I would call if I couldn’t sleep and he would always answer,” Crimo said in a video of the memorial service reviewed by The Daily Beast.
“And he was always free to hang out and when I was with him. It felt like I wasn’t alone anymore, like I had someone there, who was really there,” he added.
“There were so many nights that we just kept walking because neither of us could ever sleep and our conversations would be so deep. I really liked Anthony. He was a really good friend,” Crimo told the church.
Now Rebollar grapples with how a silent kid who spent time at Highland Park’s skate park with her sons could have committed such a monstrous crime, one that sacrificed the lives of two parents to a young toddlerthe life of grandparentsand mothers.
The shooting affected her personally. She knows people who died in the parade. And she is friends with a man, Alexander Sandoval, who hid his son in a dumpster during the chaos of the shooting. “His son can’t sleep now and has nightmares,” she said.
Rebollar initially didn’t want to talk about Crimo, but she also doesn’t want her son’s name dragged through the mud as the only friend of a mass shooter.
“It broke my heart that my son, who was the most gentle spirit in the world, who would have carried an insect out of the house instead of killing it … that he would be connected in some way, shape or form [to Crimo] is just horrible.”
“Because he would never have done such a thing to anyone,” Rebollar said. “He probably loved Bobby and probably would do anything for him.”
After viewing the footage of Crimo speaking of Anthony, Rebollar believes it shows Crimo’s state of mind five years ago. “It’s kind of touching, and I don’t want to get caught up in a mass murderer, you know?” she said. “It’s terrible. There’s no justification, he could’ve gotten help, he could’ve told anyone, but if you’ve never had anyone to tell, how do you even know who to tell, if there’s never anyone for you been?”
She believes much of Crimo’s internet presence, including disturbing social media posts and rap songs, was more recent. “So what happened between then and now?” she said. “When you get to the point where you want to kill people in your hometown, where you learned to skateboard, like what happened?”
Still, Rebollar was surprised when Crimo shared words in behalf of Anthony. She came to realize that Anthony, who had mental health issues of his own and could easily empathize with others, attracted people who didn’t have many friends or were loners.
“That was the person Anthony was, so a lot of people may have considered Anthony to be one of their one and only friends,” Rebollar said. “I’m sure Bobby has had some very deep moments with Anthony. Because everyone did.”
Crimo stopped spending time with her family after Anthony died of a drug overdose, and Crimo lost touch with her other sons after high school. But when they were young, they used to hang out at the local skate park, Sunset Park, she said.
“When Anthony died, he may have been the only person who… [Crimo] could be really honest about his thoughts as Anthony has also had a lot of thoughts he didn’t like, intrusive thoughts he wasn’t comfortable with. So he understood. If someone else came to him, you know, he might very well have talked him into it or, you know, stopped him from doing whatever he was doing,” Rebollar said.
Looking back, Rebollar says, she wonders if she should have reached out to Crimo more. He was quieter than the other kids, and her experience is that teenage boys or young boys aren’t as quiet.
Rebollar’s family is shocked that Crimo made national news for the senseless shooting of innocent people.
Anthony’s brother, Andres Christopher Lopez, told The Daily Beast that his group of friends, which included Crimo at some points, spent hours skateboarding outside a local Dairy Queen. “He was just the quiet one,” Lopez said. “Maybe the nerd. But he was never anything but a happy kid.”
“So when I hear about it now, it just amazes me,” Lopez added. “When I think of him, I don’t think of the tattoos on his face and the gun in his hand. I think of the kid I used to skateboard with.”
Rebollar noted that the affluent Highland Park community and nearby Highwood, where she lives, are like one large community with a dividing line between rich and poor, which she says also translates into a dividing line between white and Hispanic. As a single mother raising four children, her family did not have many resources. And while Bobby wasn’t needy—his father owned a popular deli in town—he seemed to get along with the teens who didn’t have as much wealth and privilege.
“How can you have any empathy for Bobby at all? You think of all the victims and how can you feel bad?” she asked. “I don’t feel sorry for his future. I think he gets what he deserves.” But Rebollar says she knows what it feels like to be judged in the community, having lost one child to a drug overdose and another child recently to suicide, and ponders how Crimo’s parents will be “condemned forever” by their city. .
Former high school classmates painted a different picture of Crimo in recent days.
They told The Daily Beast that he was disruptive and challenging in class and often tried to promote his rap music to fellow students.
“There were a lot of red flags with him,” a former Highland Park High School classmate said Tuesday† “I told my teacher I didn’t want to sit next to him. He really scared me.”
Ethan Absler, another classmate, said Crimo appeared to have “behavioral red flags” and was “reserved and a little mysterious.”
“There were definitely behavioral cues in him, nothing that said this kid was angry or dangerous or violent or that he was a shooter or anything like that,” Absler told The Daily Beast, “but kind of the type where you think the kid is weird.” is or he has some problems with behavior or authority.” Absler said Crimo would interrupt classes with his Soundcloud promotions.
He was once banned, Absler added, for printing stickers with his rap logo and placing them in hard-to-reach areas of school.
Absler almost attended the July 4 parade in his town, but withdrew because his 11-year-old brother didn’t feel like going. Like other residents, he is still in shock from the bloodshed.
“Everyone in this country is desensitized to the words ‘it will never come to your town’ and the words ‘mass shooting’ and things like that,” Absler said. “Highland Park is so picturesque and safe. We would leave our doors open and laugh at the idea that any kind of violent crime is a possibility and now I just feel ignorant thinking that.
At a hearing on Wednesday, authorities revealed that Crimo allegedly confessed to orchestrating Monday’s mass shooting and that he “seriously considered” carrying out a second attack in Madison, Wisconsin shortly after. While a motive for Crimo’s horrific outburst has not yet been revealed, Assistant Attorney Ben Dillon said Crimo told investigators he “dressed up as a girl and covered his tattoos with makeup” to avoid being recognized when he opened fire from the roof of a company overlooking the parade route. After the spree, Crimo said the Smith and Wesson M&P 15 used to carry out the attack accidentally fell out of its backpack – a mistake authorities say was crucial in finding Crimo.
In a press conference after the hearing, Lake County Sheriff’s deputy chief Christopher Covelli also revealed that the 21-year-old alleged murderer had “sort of an affinity with ‘4’ and ‘7’”, numbers that are on Crimo’s face. etched, noting that it “apparently comes from music he’s interested in.”
— with additional reporting by Pilar Melendez
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