A gunman perched on a rooftop has opened fire on families waving flags and children riding bicycles during an Independence Day parade near the US city of Chicago, killing at least six people and wounding 36 others.
The shooting in Highland Park, a community of about 30,000 residents some 40km (25 miles) north of Chicago, Illinois, caused panicked mayhem on Monday as hundreds of marchers, including parents with strollers, fled the scene in terror.
Hours later, authorities said a man named as a “person of interest” in the shooting was taken into police custody.
He was identified as 22-year-old Robert E Crimo III.
Christopher Covelli, a spokesperson for the Lake County Major Crime Task Force, told reporters the attacker apparently used a “high-powered rifle” to fire from a spot atop a building where he was “very difficult to see”.
“Very random, very intentional and a very sad day,” he said.
The shooting comes as the United States struggles to stem a surge in gun violence and after a string of recent deadly incidents, including a massacre at a Texas primary school, has renewed calls for stricter gun regulations in the country.
“Our community was terrorised by an act of violence that has shaken us to our core. Our hearts go out to the families of the victims during this devastating time,” Mayor Nancy Rotering told reporters on Monday afternoon.
The Chicago Sun-Times newspaper reported that the parade began at about 10am local time (15:00 GMT) but was suddenly halted 10 minutes later after shots were fired.
“It sounded like fireworks going off,” said retired doctor Richard Kaufman who was standing across the street from where the gunman opened fire, adding that he heard about 200 shots.
“It was pandemonium,” he said. “People were covered in blood tripping over each other.”
Amarani Garcia, who was at the parade with her young daughter, told the local ABC affiliate she heard gunfire nearby, then a pause for what she suspected was reloading, and then more shots again.
There were “people screaming and running. It was just really traumatising”, Garcia said. “I was very terrified. I hid with my daughter actually in a little store. It just makes me feel like we’re not safe anymore.”
Debbie Glickman, a Highland Park resident, said she was on a parade float with coworkers and the group was preparing to turn onto the main route when she saw people running from the area.
“People started saying: ‘There’s a shooter, there’s a shooter, there’s a shooter,’” Glickman told the Associated Press news agency. “So we just ran. We just ran. It’s like mass chaos down there.”