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Massachusetts family ran to safety as shooter opened fire at Highland Park July 4th parade

'I thought it was fireworks'
'I thought it was fireworks' 06:49

HIGHLAND PARK, Ill. – A family from Massachusetts was among dozens of people who ran for cover as a gunman opened fire from a rooftop during a 4th of July parade in the Chicago suburb of Highland Park on Monday.

Shawn Cotreau and his family travel from the Boston area to Illinois each year to visit family and attend the parade.

Police said 22-year-old Robert "Bobby" E. Crimo III opened fire with a high-powered rifle around 10:15 a.m. Seven people were killed and dozens others injured.

Cotreau said he got a clear look at Crimo, who police say was shooting from the roof of a business in the area.

"So we're sitting there, the band had just crossed in front Ross (Cosmetics) store. All of the sudden we heard "Pip, pip, pip, pip!" and I think it's fireworks. Then we hear "Boom! Boom! Boom!" and I see the tree kind of lighting up that's in front of us," Cotreau told CBS Chicago. "I look straight up and I can't get this out of my head, this shooter with a long gun pointing right at me, and it's just shooting at the tree. And my wife says 'Get up and run!'"

Within seconds, Cotreau, his wife, their three children and other family members ran to safety and hid in a nearby parking lot. They were not hurt.

"I could see his gun, I could see his hat on, and you could just see him spraying the intersection," Cotreau said. "It felt like an eternity that the gun was going off. Then I could see the bullets just hitting the street, hitting the tree."

Like many others in the crowd, Cotreau said at first he thought he was hearing the sound of fireworks. But soon, the reality sunk in.

"Oh my God this is really happening," he recalled thinking. "I felt like the gunshots went on for minutes. Not 20 shots. I felt like it just didn't stop."

Crimo was arrested several hours after the shooting. Police are expected to announce charges on Tuesday.

Cotreau said he and his family remain shocked by what they went through on what was supposed to be a peaceful 4th of July family activity.

"I think they're very shaken," Cotreau said of his children. "They're young, and this is one of their favorite events of the year. And I think they're just shocked. I think everyone is really just in shock that this really just happened."

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