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'Clear and present danger': Highland Park suspect flagged years before massacre; police reveal how he obtained firearms

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Jim Vondruska/Getty Images

The suspected killer who opened fire on a crowd of innocent people in Highland Park, Illinois, was not only known to law enforcement, but was involved in two previous incidents that might have barred him from obtaining firearms.

What are the details?

The Illinois State Police disclosed on Tuesday that they received a report in September 2019 indicating the now-alleged perpetrator was a "clear and present danger," related to threats he made against his family.

"There were no arrests made in the September 2019 incident and no one, including family, was willing to move forward on a complaint nor did they subsequently provide information on threats or mental health that would have allowed law enforcement to take additional action," an ISP press release explained. "Additionally, no Firearms Restraining Order was filed, nor any order of protection."

The press release does not explain what threats were made, but Lake County sheriff’s office public information officer Christopher Covelli explained at a press conference on Tuesday that the suspected perpetrator had threatened to "kill everyone."

In that incident, police collected 16 knives, a dagger, and a sword, but released the items and determined there was no probable cause for arrest.

The first incident happened five months earlier in April 2019.

"An individual contacted Highland Park Police Department a week after learning of [the alleged suspect] attempting suicide. This was a delayed report, so Highland Park still responded to the residence a week later, spoke with [the alleged suspect], spoke with [the alleged suspect’s] parents, and the matter was being handled by mental health professionals at that time. There was no law enforcement action to be taken. It was a mental health issue and handled by those professionals," Covelli explained.

How did he get firearms?

According to law enforcement, the suspected killer did not possess a Firearm Owners Identification card at the time of September 2019 incident. Illinois law requires a FOID card to own or posses firearms.

However, the suspected perpetrator later obtained a FOID card with the help of his father, ISP explained.

"In December of 2019, at the age of 19, the individual applied for a FOID card. The subject was under 21 and the application was sponsored by the subject’s father," the agency said. "Therefore, at the time of FOID application review in January of 2020, there was insufficient basis to establish a clear and present danger and deny the FOID application."

In a subsequent release, ISP said the suspected killer passed four background checks when purchasing firearms in 2020 and 2021.

The suspect has been charged with seven counts of first-degree murder. Dozens of other criminal charges are expected to filed against him.

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