Dad of 3 Young Children Recalls Fleeing For His Life At Highland Park Parade

Shawn and Jacqueline Cotreau travel from Boston, Massachusetts, to Highland Park, Illinois, each and every year for the July 4th parade on Central Street.

“They had the parade again this year after canceling it the last two, so we had our chairs out early, in our regular spots,” Cotreau, 46, tells PEOPLE. “You’d never imagine it would turn into something like this.”

Dad of 3 Young Children Recalls Fleeing For His Life At Highland Park Parade

Cotreau and his family were just 10 feet from the gunman, Robert “Bobby” Crimo III, who opened fire on Monday’s parade, took the lives of at least six and wounded 24 others.

Crimo fired from atop a Highland Park business and was armed with a firearm and a high-powered rifle. He has since been charged with seven counts of first-degree murder and dozens more charges are to be expected.

“We’re sheltered in place in the house right now,” Cotreau said at the time of the interview, adding his children — ages 2, 9, and 11 — are petrified. “My kids, they’re shaken. They don’t want to leave the house.”

Cotreau recalled how he initially thought he heard firecrackers, but when he “looked back,” he “saw the gun.” He went on to share how he was “staring at this guy shooting at me.”

RELATED: Grandfather Who Just Moved to America Identified as One of the Victims in Highland Park Shooting: ‘He Didn’t Want to Attend the Parade’

“It was tough for me to see him,” he explains. “He was up on the roof, and had the rifle in front of him. I saw most of the gun. Then, we saw the bullets hitting the tree in front of us, which was insane.”

While it did take him a moment to process what was happening, Cotreau says he was finally jolted back to reality when Jacqueline screamed for him “to get up and get running.”

“She was amazing,” he says of his wife. “She reacted immediately.”

Cotreau grabbed one of his children and ran down Central Street, eventually turning left down a side street, where the entire family hid behind a concrete wall.

“We waited for the gunfire to stop before we headed to my in-laws [who live] two blocks away,” he says. “It’s just amazing to me that this happened.”

RELATED: Police Reveal Highland Park Shooter Disguised Himself as a Woman to Flee Shooting Undetected, As Former Coach Calls His Parents ‘a Problem’

Cotreauw went on to recall how “there were bodies near us,” saying how “the whole thing” was “surreal.”

The City of Highland Park posted about the incident on their Facebook page just after initial reports broke. Police and fire trucks were on the scene for the parade, the city said. And additional emergency crews from all over Lake County responded to the scene with at least 10 ambulances requested.

Immediately following the shooting in Highland Park, the Glenview, Illinois police announced the cancellation of their July 4 celebrations on the platform as Glenview is approximately 10 minutes away from Highland Park by car. 

Other towns in surrounding areas have done the same, like Evanston, Illinois, which also canceled their parade. The city also closed their beaches in the wake of the shooting.

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