A white man, aged around 20, is suspected of having opened fire around 10:15 a.m. (3:15 p.m. GMT) on the crowd gathered for the festivities in Highland Park, an affluent town on the shores of Lake Michigan north of Chicago, before fleeing.
A rifle was found, but the individual is still “considered armed and dangerous”, said the police, who called on the population to stay safe until his arrest.
“As we gathered to celebrate our freedom, we must mourn the tragic loss of life and overcome our terror,” city mayor Nancy Rotering said at a press conference.
“At present, we know that at least six people have died” and “that 24 have been taken to hospital”, she added, calling on her fellow citizens to remain “in a state of alert but calm”.
Hundreds of officers were deployed to apprehend the suspect and come to the aid of the population. On images of the city broadcast on television channels, we see the police circulating in empty streets, where the sidewalks are covered with camping chairs abandoned in panic.
The suspect has not been identified. He has “long black hair and a white or blue t-shirt,” local police chief Chris O’Neill said.
The shooting broke out as hundreds of people gathered to watch the traditional July 4 parade, which celebrates the United States’ declaration of independence in 1776.
A witness, quoted by the local channel WGN, reported seeing a man armed with a rifle open fire in the direction of the public. “He was on the ground and was crawling in a methodical, almost military way,” commented this man named Michael.
The crowd threw themselves to the ground before running away as pools of blood formed, he said.
Adrienne Drell was watching a high school marching band when a man sounded the alarm. “It was panic all over the city,” she told the Chicago Sun-Times. “We are totally stunned.”
The parade was immediately suspended and festivities were canceled in several nearby towns.
The United States is still reeling from a series of shootings, including one in an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, on May 24, which left 21 people dead, including 19 children.
The country is more generally facing an increase in gun violence with more than 22,000 people killed since the start of the year, according to the Gun Violence Archive, which incorporates suicides into its data.