Footage of the arrest of Robert Crimo, the man charged with murder on Tuesday in the mass shooting at a Fourth of July parade in Highland Park, Illinois, has sparked a fresh series of bitter conversations about racism in policing.
Mr Crimo was identified as a person of interest hours after the shooting on Monday morning killed at least six people and left dozens more wounded. Investigators have claimed that the shooter shot at parade attendees from a rooftop and said that a “high-powered rifle” was recovered at the scene of the crime.
On Monday afternoon, police pulled over and arrested Mr Crimo several miles north of the site of the shooting in a manner that caught the attention of a number of activists and observers.
Apparent footage of the arrest, which was shared widely online, shows police calmly directing Mr Crimo as they prepared to arrest him at an intersection. At one point, an officer can be heard telling Mr Crimo “Do me a favour: get on your knees — get on your knees, lay down flat on your stomach.”
Mr Crimo was then handcuffed and placed in police custody. Prior to Mr Crimo’s arrest, the person of interest at large in the Highland Park shooting was described as “armed and dangerous.”
The relatively nonviolent arrest of Mr Crimo — who is accused of perpetrating one of the worst mass shootings in recent US history at a Fourth of July parade — stands in sharp contrast with the police treatment of Jayland Walker in Akron last week.
On the morning of June 27, Akron police chief Steve Mylett said his officers attempted to pull Mr Walker, who was Black, over for traffic and equipment violations. Mr Walker drove away from the police, who pursued him. According to Mr Mylett, officers believed that they at one point heard the sound of a shot coming from Mr Walker’s vehicle.
After several minutes, Mr Walker left the car and allegedly continued to flee from the pursuing law enforcement officers on foot. When the officers caught up to Mr Walker in a parking lot, eight police officers shot him at least 60 times. Mr Walker was unarmed at the time of the shooting.
The difference in the treatment of Mr Crimo from the treatment of Mr Walker and other Black people like Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams, who Cleveland police shot at 137 times in 2016, was not lost on a number of observers.
Black people in the US are more than three times more likely to be shot by police than white people. A number of those shootings begin as traffic stops. An April analysis by The Guardian found that police have killed more than 600 people in traffic stops in the last five years, with Black people again disproportionately harmed.
The nature of the arrest of Mr Crimo suggested to people that police are in fact quite capable of arresting violent suspects without shooting them when they so choose.
Lake County Major Crime Task Force spokesman Christopher Covelli said on Tuesday that Mr Crimo planned the attack for weeks and acted alone. Mr Crimo is execpted to be charged in the shooting imminently.