4 dead and 7 injured after Illinois stabbing spree; suspect, 22, in custody

Four people were killed and seven others were injured Wednesday in and near Rockford, Illinois, in what the city’s mayor called a “random and senseless act of violence.”

Some of the victims, including a woman who fled a home invasion in Winnebago County and a man who tried to help her, were stabbed, officials said.

Police took a 22-year-old man into custody and were not looking for anyone else involved in the violence, which occurred at “multiple scenes” in Rockford and an area of the county shortly after 1 p.m., authorities said. NBC Chicago, citing Rockford officials, identified the suspect as Christian Soto.

“Words can’t even express my thoughts right now,” Rockford Police Chief Carla Redd told reporters. She said the suspect committed “heinous crimes.”

Authorities have not said how the violence unfolded. A woman who identified herself as the suspect’s mother said Thursday she was in shock.

“He’s a loving person and he has never hurt anybody before,” the woman, who did not provide her name, said in a phone call. “We don’t know what happened. He’s not an aggressive person. This is all shocking to us. … We never felt threatened with him.”

One survivor was in critical condition, and four others were stable after a man “attacked and stabbed multiple individuals,” the Rockford Police Department said on X on Wednesday. Winnebago County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Cori Hilliard said two others had been injured in her county.

OSF Saint Anthony Medical Center, a hospital in Rockford that received four patients on Wednesday, said Thursday that it still had three patients, two of whom are in fair condition and one in critical condition.

Authorities have not identified those who were killed, but described the victims as a 15-year-old girl, a 63-year-old woman, a 49-year-old man and a 22-year-old man.

The causes of death and injury for all victims were not clear. Not all of the victims were stabbed, Redd said, and none were shot.

A report came into Rockford’s dispatch center at 1:14 p.m. local time about a medical call, Redd said, and other calls followed asking for police help.

In a neighborhood in the Rockford area that is part of Winnebago County, there was a home invasion and a woman fled but was stabbed in the hands and face, Sheriff Gary Caruana said.

The woman was taken to a hospital with serious injuries and has been intubated, he said. A man who intervened to help her suffered stab wounds, but “he’s fine” and being evaluated, Caruana said.

A sheriff’s deputy took the suspect into custody, Caruana said. He faces more than a dozen charges including murder and home invasion, online records show.

He is expected to make his first court appearance at 1:30 p.m. Thursday, according to NBC Chicago.

Court records show that the suspect had several traffic violations, including an incident in January when he was accused of speeding. Soto pled guilty and was scheduled to appear for a sentencing hearing on March 19, but did not show up.

The sentencing hearing had been rescheduled for May, records show.

In a separate traffic incident from 2022, he was sentenced to six months of supervision after he was charged with driving with an expired registration and failure to yield to the right-of-way. 

He was also charged with damage to property in September 2022. 

One of the victims was a mail carrier, Caruana said. The Postal Inspection Service confirmed the victim was a letter carrier but released no other details, citing an active investigation.

As law enforcement agencies try to piece together what happened, Redd asked residents to check security cameras or doorbell cameras for any video that might help investigators.

“Right now, we don’t have a clear motive in regards to what caused this individual to commit such heinous crimes,” Redd said.

Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara and other officials said their thoughts were with the victims and their families. The mayor said he was “just totally shaken by this act of violence and the impact that it’s having now on multiple families’ lives.”

“My prayers are with them as they’re just beginning to deal with what will be really difficult days and weeks ahead,” McNamara said.

Federal law enforcement officials are assisting in the investigation, police said.

The city announced emotional support and counseling services would be available at Flinn Middle School on Thursday and Friday.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said he was monitoring the situation and offered any support needed to Rockford’s mayor.

“As we await more information, our thoughts are with the families and loved ones of the victims,” Pritzker said on X.

Rockford is a city of around 150,000 about 60 miles northwest of Chicago.

CORRECTION (March 28, 2024, 8:35 a.m. ET): A previous version of this article misstated the day of the attacks. They occurred Wednesday, not Tuesday.

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