Alexander Sandoval and his family were among many gathered along a parade route in Highland Park, Illinois, on Monday for the Independence Day parade. Then deadly chaos erupted.
"We saw people fall to the ground and people run," Sandoval told Reuters. That's when he picked up his son and younger brother and ran. They tried to break into a store for cover, but to no avail.
Officials said on Tuesday that the, 21-year-old Robert "Bobby" Crimo III, shot at paradegoers from a nearby rooftop with a high-powered rifle. and dozens more were injured. Investigators believe that Crimo, who has since been arrested and charged with seven counts of first-degree murder, "pre-planned this attack for several weeks."
"As soon as bullets stopped for a second we started to run again. And he reloaded and started shooting again," he said. After rounding a corner, he got separated from his family and another child. With his family gone and the shooter still releasing rounds, he opted for the safest place he could find for his son — a dumpster.
"It's just a natural instinct. It was just the best place at the time," Sandoval told Reuters. "And I had to think with the resources that I had and that was all I could do. And it was just a horrible feeling but I had to find the rest of my family and see what I can do to help my loved ones."
More than 70 rounds were fired during the shooting, police said on Tuesday, adding that once he was finished firing at paradegoers, the suspect dropped off the rifle and escaped through the crowds.
Highland Park was just one of several shootings that occurred over the July 4 weekend. According to the Gun Violence Archive, there was, killing at least 220 people across the U.S. and injuring nearly 570 more. At least 11 of those incidents were mass shootings, according to the archive, meaning four or more people were shot.
The whole experience and seeing people in "such horrible pain," Sandoval said, was "terrorizing."
"I just hope those families can find peace and reconciliation with all of this," he said.