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Who Were The Victims Killed At The Highland Park July 4th Parade?

Seven people, including devoted grandfather, parents of a young toddler and “best mom in the world," lost their lives Monday when a gunman opened fire on those attending the July 4th parade.

By Jill Sederstrom
A body is transported from the scene of a mass shooting during the July 4th parade

Families in Highland Park, Illinois had gathered on Monday morning to celebrate America's Independence Day, lining the streets of the suburban downtown to watch a parade in honor of the July 4th holiday.

But within minutes of the parade beginning, a gunman with a “high-powered rifle" on a nearby rooftop opened fire on the unsuspecting crowd, killing six people and injuring dozens more, The Chicago Sun Times reports.

It has now become one of deadliest mass shootings in Illinois history.

“There are no words for the kind of evil that show up at a public celebration of freedom, hides on a roof and shoots innocent people with an assault rifle,” Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzer said Monday night, according to CNN. “There are no words I can offer to lessen the pain of those families who will no longer associate the 4th of July with the celebration, but instead with grief.”

Authorities arrested a 22-year-old person-of-interest in the mass shooting Monday night after a North Chicago police officer spotted the suspect's vehicle and took him into custody after a brief pursuit.

Seven people—including a devoted grandfather, the parents of a toddler and a mom who died while running from the gunman with her daughter—lost their lives in the shooting while dozens of others, including children, were injured, according to NBC News.

Lake County Coroner Jennifer Banek announced the names of six of the seven people who lost their lives in a statement obtained by Oxygen.com, identifying the dead as Katherine Goldstein, 64; Irina McCarthy, 35; Kevin McCarthy, 37; Jacquelyn Sundheim, 63; Stephen Straus, 88; and Nicolas Toledo-Zaragoza, 78.

The seventh victim, whose death at an Evanston Hospital was announced at a Tuesday press conference, has not been identified, according to People.

Here’s what we know so far about those who lost their lives:

Katherine Goldstein:

Katherine “Katie” Goldstein had been happily watching the parade with her daughter Monday morning, waving to the floats as they passed, her daughter Cassie Goldstein told NBC Nightly News’ Lester Holt Tuesday.

But the morning soon took a tragic turn, when Cassie said she heard gunfire erupt.

“I was standing there with my mom, and I heard what I thought were firecrackers firing into the street across from me. And then I looked up and I saw the shooter shooting down at the kids,” Cassie said. “And I told her that it was a shooter and that she had to run.”

The pair took off running but Katie Goldstein fell the ground after she was shot in the chest.

“I knew she was dead,” Cassie said. "I just told her that I loved her, but I couldn’t stop, because he was still shooting everyone next to me. So, I just kept running, and I hid behind a trash can.”

She went back to find her mother—who she described as her “best friend”—when the shooting stopped, but by then it was too late.

“She was just a good mom, and I got 22 years with her,” she said. “And I got to have 22 years with the best mom in the world. … I did everything with her.”

Katie’s husband, Craig Goldstein, described her to the news outlet as the “kindest, gentlest person you’d ever meet” who had always been positive and upbeat.

Irina and Kevin McCarthy:

Kevin McCarthy, 37, died protecting his 2 ½ year old son, Aiden, who has now been left an orphan.

The young boy’s grandfather Michael Levberg told The Chicago Times that Kevin used his body to shield the young boy after the gunfire erupted.

“He had Aiden under his body when he was shot,” Levberg, who is Kevin’s father-in-law, said.

The toddler was later captured in photographs “walking in the street” alone before he was taken to a police station, where Levberg later picked him up.

The toddler had still been hoping to reunite with his parents—who both died in the mass shooting—telling his grandfather “Mommy and Daddy are coming soon.”

Levberg described Aiden’s mother, his daughter Irina, as “the love of my life” and said he’s still struggling to come to terms with the loss.

Irina, a Russian native, immigrated to the Chicago area with her parents as a child. She met her husband while working in digital marketing at a pharmaceutical company.

Kevin had been an employee of the start-up Jaguar Gene Therapy, according to WMAQ-TV.

Joe Nolan, the company’s chief executive officer, described him in a letter to coworkers as a “star employee” who had “incredible work ethic.”

“Outside of work he was very proud dad and devoted husband who adored his family,” Nolan said. “We will miss him tremendously.”

According to Nolan, Aiden is now being cared for by his grandparents.

Stephen Straus

Stephen Straus liked to be on the go and still took the train each work day from his home in Highland Park to the city, where the 88-year-old worked as a financial adviser, according to the Jewish publication Forward.

“He got up every day, got up and did things,” his niece Cynthia Straus told the outlet, also describing her uncle’s frequent trips to the symphony or art institute.

On Monday, Straus—who was still in “remarkably good health”—had decided to take in the parade, but he wouldn’t survive the outing.

He was among the seven people who lost their life.

Cynthia described Stephen, who left behind his wife Linda, two children and four grandchildren, as someone who had “looked out for the whole family.”

“He was like a big, big oak tree,” she said. “An umbrella of well-being for all of us. It’s a big loss.”

His son Peter described his father to The Chicago Tribune as someone who had been “very curious about the world” and loved his Highland Park community, where he had lived for years.

Straus had made it a point to attend the Highland Park July 4th parade every year.

“My dad was just very much a Highland Parker,” Peter said. “He lived here, and unfortunately he died here.”

Jacki Sundheim:

A personal photo of shooting victim Jacki Sundheim

Jacki Sundheim had been a “beloved” member of the North Shore Congregation Israel. The synagogue confirmed her death Monday in a brief statement.

Along with being a “lifelong congregant of NSCI,” Sundheim had also been a “cherished member” of the staff for decades.

"Jacki’s work, kindness and warmth touched us all," NSCI said in the statement announcing her death. "From her early days teaching at the Gates of Learning Preschool to guiding innumerable among us through life’s moments of joy and sorrow as our Events and B'nei Mitzvah Coordinator-- all of this with tireless dedication. There are no words sufficient to express the depth of our grief for Jacki’s death and sympathy for her family and loved ones."

She is survived by her husband Bruce and daughter Leah, according to The Times of Israel.

"She just had a smile on her face all the time,” her friend Howard Miller said, according to WLS-TV. “She was probably the last one out of here every night. Just couldn't find a lovelier person.”

In an earlier statement, NSCI leaders had described being “horrified” by the “sickening and senseless shooting.”

“We join with all people of good will in our heartbreak that such senseless violence and loss of innocent human life have once again wreaked havoc, this time in the midst of our own community, neighborhood, congregation and home,” they wrote. “This touches each of us deeply and personally; the grief, pain, and fear affect us all.”

Nicolas Toledo:

Nicolas Toledo, a 78-year-old grandfather and native of Mexico, hadn’t wanted to go to the parade.

His granddaughter, Xochil Toledo, 23, told The New York Post, that Nicolas had been concerned because he used a walker and had worried about his health amidst the crowds.

“He was like, ‘No, I think I should stay, I’m in a walker, there’s going to be a lot of people, I don’t think I should go,’” she said. “My father and [aunt], they were like, ‘How could we leave you here by yourself? We’d never do that to you, no matter if you’re in a wheelchair or walker, we’re still going to take you with us,’ and then the tragedy happened.”

The family had been so eager to see the parade that they’d set their chairs up the night before to save their spots. It began as a happy morning shared among 10 or 15 family members, but quickly turned tragic.

“When the parade started, I turned around to see [Grandpa’s] reaction, and he was so happy to be there, and then all of a sudden. we heard gunshots. We thought it was part of the parade,” his granddaughter recalled. “We didn’t know what was going until we could feel blood on us from our grandpa.” 

In shock, the family went their separate ways to try to find cover, but Xochil said her father and cousin stayed behind to hug the body of her grandfather.

She described the family as being “very upset.”

“It just feels like a dream, a scary dream,” she said.

Nicolas had been killed while sitting in his wheelchair between his son and a nephew when the gunfire broke out, according to The New York Times, and other family members had been injured — though none fatally, according to the Post.

Xochil told The Post she believed her grandfather had likely saved other members of the family in his final moments.

“He was our life-saver… I was actually sitting in front of him along with all of my cousins,” she said through tears.

She added that he been hit by three bullets that could have hit other family members. 

Nicolas had moved back to Highland Park from Mexico several months ago to be closer to his family, who had hoped to help take care of him.

“We brought him over here so he could have a better life,” Xochil told The Times.

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