In the wake of the July 4 parade shooting in Highland Park, Chicago, that left at least 6 people dead, a local rabbi said that the shooter, identified as Robert E. Crimo III, tried to enter into a nearby synagogue a few months ago but was denied by security, Anash.org reports.
Rabbi Yosef Schanowitz recognized the photo of Crimo circulated by police and recognized him from a few months earlier.
“During last Pesach, that person entered the Chabad House. We have an armed security guard sitting in front… I approached him and sternly asked him to leave as I noticed he was not a member of our community,” Rabbi Schanowitz told Israel’s Channel 2.
The synagogue, which is located just blocks from where the shooting took place, sheltered fleeing people in the moment after the attack.
“There is reason to think that the attack was directed against Jews due to the prominent Jewish presence in the area.” Rabbi Schanowitz said.
Two members of the local Jewish community are reportedly listed among the victims.
The shooting is part of a wave of gun violence plaguing the United States, where approximately 40,000 deaths a year are caused by firearms, according to the Gun Violence Archive website.
And it cast a pall over America's Independence Day, in which towns and cities across the country hold similar parades and people -- many dressed in variations on the US flag -- hold barbecues, attend sports events and gather for firework displays.
"We were getting ready to march down the street and then all the sudden waves of these people started running after, like running towards us. And right before that happened, we heard the pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, and I thought it was fireworks," Emily Prazak, who marched in the parade, told AFP.
Police officials said the shooting began at 10:14 am, when the parade was approximately three-quarters of the way through.
"It sounds like spectators were targeted... So, very random, very intentional and very sad," said Lake County Major Crime Task Force spokesman Christopher Covelli.
Five of the six people killed, all adults, had died at the scene. The sixth was taken to hospital but succumbed to wounds there.
With additional reporting by AFP