HIGHLAND PARK, Ill. (WCIA) — Rick Atterberry recalled the moment a shooter opened fire on a crowd celebrating Independence Day Monday in Highland Park, a city in the Chicago suburbs. It’s a moment the former Champaign County Emergency Management communications specialist is thankful to be around to talk about.

“We were about 50 yards from the shooter and maybe 20 yards from where some of the victims fell,” Atterberry said Tuesday.

Atterberry moved north to Highland Park a year and a half ago to be closer to his grandkids. He described the city with a population of around 30,000 as tight-knit, “a very nice, friendly place.”

“Ethnically, it is largely a Jewish community and has a history from time to time of people coming in to take advantage of that, to threaten the synagogues, to drop off hate literature, that sort of thing. But the city always bands together,” he said.

Atterberry walked with his wife and an out-of-town friend to the city’s 4th of July parade two blocks from his home around 9:30 Monday morning. The main event kicked off around 10:00.

“And then about 10:15, We heard what I think a lot of people thought were either fireworks or perhaps some sort of a salute as the flag went by.”

Atterberry said that changed 7-8 shots later.

“We said, ‘No, this is not fireworks. The cadence is too regular, the timber is too throaty. Those are gunshots.’ And my wife was the first to say, ‘Let’s go,'” Atterberry recalled.

He remembered a chorus of muffled screams and continued gunshots, and rapid movement everywhere as people weaved in and out of lawn chairs, coolers, strollers and bicycles left behind.

“I think you just go on autopilot,” Atterberry said. “The other fleeting thought you have: ‘Okay, what does it feel like to get shot in the back?’ And that is the one thought I had besides just, ‘Let’s get out of here.'”

“We encountered a victim on the way home. It was about a block away from here” he continued, referring to his home.

“His face was covered in blood, but he said, ‘I’m okay, just a graze wound.'”

“Our friend gave him some tissues to get the blood out of his eyes. And there was a police officer going by and I flagged him down and said, ‘Hey, we’ve got a wounded one right here’ and just left that to the police, Atterberry said.

He spent the next eight hours sheltering in place per police request, as an hours-long manhunt for the suspected gunman ensued. His heart was with the first responders.

“This being a rather small 30,000, a tight-knit community…they’re also always doing things together. These first responders were dealing with their friends and their neighbors yesterday. That’s just incredibly difficult to imagine.”

22-year-old Robert “Bobby” Crimo III was arrested around 6:30 p.m. He’s accused of firing 70 rounds from a rooftop into the panicked crowd, killing seven people and injuring dozens more.

Lake County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Chief Christopher Covelli said in a press briefing Tuesday morning that officers believe a high-powered rifle, similar to an AR-15, was the weapon used.

“He was in possession of another rifle in his vehicle when he was pulled over by police. He also had other firearms that were recovered from a residence that he was living in, in Highwood. They were in his name. They were legally purchased,” Deputy Chief Covelli continued.

Atterberry expressed frustration over the availability of assault-style rifles, citing a pattern of these weapons being used in mass shootings across the U.S. for years.

“I don’t understand the reason for individuals to have assault weapons,” he began.

“I grew up hunting. You don’t need an assault weapon to go hunting…They’re military weapons, so they only have one purpose and that’s to kill people. That’s why the military uses them.”

Highland Park’s city council passed an ordinance banning assault weapons within city limits nearly 10 years ago. It was heavily contested before the Supreme Court ultimately upheld the law in 2014. Whether it’s prevented other violence from coming in — beyond Monday — is unclear.

Nationwide, it’s a deadlocked discussion.

Atterberry pointed to Australia, a country that banned the sale and importing of semi-automatic and automatic weapons, and in the 26 years since, there has been one mass shooting in the country.