Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering on how her community is coping after July 4 attack

The scene of chaos in Highland Park, Illinois allegedly came from a calculated plan, weeks in the making. Officials say the shooter used an AR-15 style rifle, with a second one found with him when he was arrested. The rampage during the Fourth of July parade in the Chicago suburb has left the community there reeling. Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering joins Judy Woodruff to discuss.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Let's go to Highland Park now to hear more about how that community is coping and the questions surrounding the shooting.

    Nancy Rotering is the mayor. And she joins me now.

    Madam Mayor, thank you for being here.

    And you do have our deepest condolences. We know that a seventh person has died, what is it, well over 30 people wounded.

    Can you tell us any more about those who are still in the hospital?

    Nancy Rotering, Mayor of Highland Park, Illinois: The folks who are still in the hospital have a broad range of injuries. And they are scattered throughout regional hospitals.

    So we are obviously trying to respect the terror and sadness that their families are experiencing right now and trying to give them their space, but understand that these were — this was a weapon of war meant to destroy human life. And so people are dealing with a broad range of injuries.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And what about the people in your community? How are they doing?

  • Nancy Rotering:

    We are in deep, deep mourning. Yesterday was more of a matter of shock and disbelief that this had actually happened in our community.

    Today, it is a day of just sheer sadness. Wherever I go, we're hugging, we're crying. And people are in so much pain right now.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Mayor Rotering, we have just learned that among the victims were the — both parents of a 2-year-old child. What do you know about this and what's being done for that family?

  • Nancy Rotering:

    That, to me, was one of the most heartbreaking stories of yesterday. My understanding is that the baby was retrieved from underneath his father and was carried to safety.

    We spent hours trying to locate the parents. And when it became clear that nobody was asking about the child, I suspected the worst. He is safely with his grandparents.

    There are two efforts to assist all of the victims of this situation. They're both available on our city Web site's front page.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, we can only imagine yet another incident like this.

    Madam Mayor, we watched the news conference that you and the police officers, officials had a short time ago. And we understand that there were two encounters with the suspect in 2019, one in the spring of that year. After he attempted suicide, his family contacted police. No charges then. Again later that year, where there were knives, a sword and so forth. Again, no charges, but police were made aware.

    Should more have been done in 2019?

  • Nancy Rotering:

    I'm confident that what the police did was within their capabilities under the law.

    We did notify the Illinois State Police in the 2019 event. And we will leave it at that. But there's — we need to talk about the fact that so many people in this country who should not have access to guns are having access to guns. And that's an issue that's unique to the United States.

    We know that, throughout the world, people have mental illness, they have anger issues. They don't have access to these large-capacity magazines and weapons that are, frankly, used in combat.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And that's what I want to ask you about, because these weapons he used apparently — we're still getting information, but they were apparently obtained legally. He's 21 years old.

    It begs the question. I mean, this is a community, Highland Park, Illinois, where there are relatively tough gun control laws on the books. And yet he was able to get these guns and do this.

  • Nancy Rotering:


    And so within our assault weapons ban and large-capacity magazine ban, he obviously broke that law. But the problem is, throughout our country, there aren't very many communities that are banning these combat weapons. We need to have a national approach that says this is not part of what a civilized society has on its streets.

    We represented the values of our community, and did what we could within the confines of the law. I have been in touch with the governor. I have been in touch with the Senate president and the House speaker. We need to change legislation in Illinois. But, frankly, we need to change legislation in the United States.

    We're surrounded by states with very lenient gun laws. And so we are doing our part as much as we can. But we, as a country, need to come together and say, enough with the carnage. This is an almost weekly event. And I heard from several mayors yesterday who they themselves had been through this experience.

    There's a handbook that's sent to mayors in the wake of a mass shooting. That's unbelievable to me, that this is what happens to a community who only wants to gather to celebrate freedom, and ends up dealing with basically this horror on our hands.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    I hear you saying this, Madam Mayor, and yet the Congress, as you know, just passed a law last week. They were applauded for finally coming together to do something.

    And, just today, the Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, is saying the problem is mental health. And it does appear to be an issue in this shooting. But, clearly, that's not enough. I mean, these shootings are still happening on a regular basis.

  • Nancy Rotering:

    And let's pose the argument that there are people with mental health issues in other countries that do not have to endure this kind of violence on a weekly basis.

    So, Mitch, you're right. We do need to put more resources towards mental health care, but there's a second prong. And that is diminishing access to weapons that are used in combat.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering.

    And, again, our deep condolences to you and your entire community. Thank you very much.

  • Nancy Rotering:

    Thank you so much, Judy.

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