Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth said the victims' gang affiliation leads authorities to suspect the shocking slayings were gang-related. The killings happened during an event that drew 15,000 people to the popular drag racing strip near Union Grove.
Authorities were still searching for the shooter.
"I don't know who the suspect was or his motivation. It appears he walked up to the three that are now dead and basically just shot them point blank," Beth said at a news conference at the drag strip.
"He knew what his targets were. A third man ran around the side of the tent and he shot him and then returned to fire multiple shots into (the other two victims lying on the ground.) He had the arrogance to know that they were dead," Beth said.
Killed were David L. Watson, 30, of Oswego, Ill.; Khalid R. Howard, 30, of Aurora, Ill.; and Derek K. Edwards, 26, of North Aurora, Ill. Edwards and Howard died at the scene while Watson died in an ambulance on the way to a local hospital.
The suspect was described as a black man, 20 to 30 years old, approximately 5-foot-9-inches tall, thin, athletic build and shaved hair on the sides but scruffy on top. Witnesses gave conflicting information about his clothing, and he was seen running from the scene before leaving in a vehicle. Officials did not provide a description of the vehicle.
The murder weapon was a pistol, although authorities are unsure of the caliber. It was not recovered at the scene.
Graphic cellphone video posted on Facebook shows two of the victims lying on the ground next to a blue open-air tent serving food adjacent to coolers and grills. Someone placed napkins over the faces of the victims who were clad in blood-spattered shorts and T-shirts.
Family members of the victims have not been helpful to authorities, the sheriff said. Authorities had difficulty identifying them and when a man who arrived at the Sheriff's Department identified himself as a father of one of the victims, he refused to provide his son's birth date and made demands of the department that were denied. The sheriff declined to elaborate on the father's demands.
The three victims were known to Aurora, Ill., police, officials said. Beth said the father of one of the victims is a high-ranking gang member from Illinois, and gang squad law enforcement members there confirmed the victims were gang members. The sheriff declined to identify the gang.
It took quite awhile to evacuate the chaotic scene Sunday night, and sheriff's deputies remained at Great Lakes Dragaway throughout the night to preserve evidence across a large area.
Larry's Fun Fest was described as a family-friendly event that included a car show, drag racing and tailgating with people bringing barbecues and picnics. A private security firm worked the event, but there was no screening of spectators for weapons.
"The whole goal of this was to get a group of people from Illinois and Chicago to come up here and race. When I was here, there were families, people of all ages. The attempt was to give people who don't normally come here a chance to have fun," said Beth.
The shootings happened in the parking area, the sheriff said, so even if there was screening for weapons, "someone could easily have driven straight in and had guns."
Beth said he didn't know why Great Lakes Dragaway was chosen by the shooter to kill the three men or how the suspect knew the victims would be at Larry's Fun Fest.
"Our detectives have not found anything to say why this was the spot where it occurred. I'm sure the suspect would know. I don't know if this is retaliation or a family trouble," said Beth. Meg Jones and Jordyn Noennig/USA Today
08/14/17 UNION GROVE, WIS. – Three men were shot and killed during an auto racing event on Sunday, a Wisconsin sheriff said.
Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth said authorities responded to the Great Lakes Dragway in Union Grove around 7 p.m. after receiving reports about shots being fired.
The suspect remains at large, Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth said at a news conference Sunday night. Authorities are searching for a black vehicle, he said.
The suspect was described as a black man in his 20s wearing blue jean shorts and a black hoodie.
The victims were shot at "point blank" range, he said.
Two of the men were pronounced dead at the scene and the third died in an ambulance on the way to a local hospital.
All three victims were from Illinois and at least two were from Aurora, Ill., said Beth, who spoke to distraught friends of the victims.
"My basic conversation with them is they have no idea what caused this," Beth said. "The three men shot were standing near a food vendor when the suspect walked up and shot them point blank."
"We're not aware of any altercations that happened earlier. At this point we're not aware of exactly what caused this," Beth said.
The type of weapon was unknown. Beth said he didn't know if the shooting was gang-related though there were "issues last year at Larry's Fun Fest, but nothing to this degree."