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Catholic priest sheltered 50 in church during Highland Park shooting

J-P Mauro - published on 07/08/22 - updated on 07/07/22

Father Hernan Cuevas was one of the first to hear the shots ring out, and he took immediate action.

A Catholic priest is in the spotlight for his heroic acts during the Highland Park parade shooting on July 4. Father Hernan Cuevas of Immaculate Conception Catholic Church sheltered terrified parade attendees after gunshots interrupted the Illinois parade in progress. 

The shooting

According to a timeline from the New York Post, the gunman found a spot on top of a building on the parade route. The man, identified as Robert “Bobby” Crimo III, opened fire on the the crowd about 10 minutes after the parade began. Crimo fired off a total of 83 shots, killing seven, with an additional 46 wounded by gunfire or injured as they fled. 

Father Hernan Cuevas

On the morning of the parade, Fr. Cuevas was attending his parish’s parade float, which he was excited to show off. He explained to CBS that he was taking a video of the preparations when he caught the sounds of the first gunshots. The priest turned to his parishioners and immediately told them to “Run! Run! Run!”

He said that a group of around 50 people, some parishioners and some strangers, flocked into Immaculate Conception church, where Fr. Cuevas sheltered them in the sanctuary. Turning to prayer, the priest took out his rosary beads and began praying the Hail Mary. He told CBS News, “I knew our lives were in God’s hands.” 

Separated children

Among those who streamed into the church during the confusion were two small children who had been separated from their parents. Fr. Cuevas noted that the children had blood on their clothing because their father had been shot. He said of the children: 

“The first thing was taking care of the blood that was on their shirts, and kind of taking away the kind of trauma of whatever was going on with them,” Cuevas said. “You could tell by looking at their eyes, they were like lost.”

Fr. Cuevas took care of the children for three hours while they hid from the shooting. Eventually a woman frantically entered the church looking for her two lost kids.

“We knew that she was the mom of the kids that we were here with, and we just hugged each other, and we just were crying,” Cuevas said, adding “We hope and pray we don’t have to go through this again.” 

Aftermath

According to the timeline, Crimo was identified as a person of interest in the shooting by 1 p.m. and was arrested without incident by 7:40 p.m. The 21-year-old stood before a Lake County judge on Wednesday, July 6, when he was charged with seven counts of first-degree murder. Crimo’s next hearing is scheduled for July 28. 

Read more at the Chicago Tribune. 

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