Crime Dad Recalls Escape From Highland Park Parade Shooter: 'I Was Staring at This Guy Shooting at Me' "The whole thing's surreal," says Shawn Cotreau, who escaped the gunfire beside his wife and their three kids on Monday By Chris Harris Chris Harris Twitter Chris Harris has been a senior true crime reporter for PEOPLE since late 2015. An award-winning journalist who has worked for Rolling Stone and MTV News, Chris enjoys prog rock, cycling, Marvel movies, IPAs, and roller coasters. People Editorial Guidelines Published on July 4, 2022 05:49 PM Share Tweet Pin Email Every summer around Independence Day, Shawn and Jacqueline Cotreau travel from Boston, Massachusetts, to Highland Park, Illinois, where they and their three kids stay with her parents in her childhood home. And every year, the highlight of the trip — at least for their children — is the July 4th parade down Central Street. "They had the parade again this year after canceling it the last two, so we had our chairs out early, in our regular spots," Cotreau, 46, tells PEOPLE. "You'd never imagine it would turn into something like this." Cotreau's family were 10 feet from the gunman who opened fire on Monday's parade in the small suburban city, killing at least six and wounding at least 24 others. The shooter, armed with a firearm and a high-powered rifle, fired from atop a Highland Park business and remains at large. "We're sheltered in place in the house right now," Cotreau explains, adding his children — ages 2, 9, and 11 — are petrified. "My kids, they're shaken. They don't want to leave the house." At Least 6 Dead After Gunman Opens Fire at July 4 Parade in Highland Park, Illinois The aftermath of the shooting at the Highland Park parade. TANNEN MAURY/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock Thinking he'd heard firecrackers going off at the parade, Cotreau recalls how he "looked back, saw the gun, and I'm staring at this guy shooting at me." While Cotreau confirms the gunman was white, he says he was unable to comment on the shooter's age. He notes the killer was wearing a hat and appeared to have long hair. For more on this story, listen below to our daily podcast PEOPLE Every Day. "It was tough for me to see him," he explains. "He was up on the roof, and had the rifle in front of him. I saw most of the gun. Then, we saw the bullets hitting the tree in front of us, which was insane." Though it took him a moment to process what was happening, Cotreau says he snapped into action after Jacqueline screamed for him "to get up and get running." "She was amazing," he says of his wife. "She reacted immediately." The scene in Highland Park Monday. Nam Y Huh/AP/Shutterstock Cotreau grabbed one of his children and sprinted down Central Street, eventually turning left down a side street, where the entire family hid behind a concrete wall. "We waited for the gunfire to stop before we headed to my in-laws [who live] two blocks away," he says. "It's just amazing to me that this happened." Cotreau saw none of the carnage, but had heard "there were bodies near us." "The whole thing's surreal," he says. The aftermath of Monday's parade shooting in Highland Park, Illinois. TANNEN MAURY/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock Rachel Brosnahan and Richard Marx, Who Grew Up in Highland Park, React to July 4th Parade Shooting The City of Highland Park posted about the incident on their Facebook page shortly after initial reports broke. Police and fire trucks were on the scene for the parade, the city said. Additional emergency crews from all over Lake County responded to the scene with at least 10 ambulances requested. People are being told to avoid the city's downtown area. Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Sign up for PEOPLE's free True Crime newsletter for breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases. Immediately following the shooting in Highland Park, the Glenview, Illinois police announced the cancellation of their July 4 celebrations on Twitter. Glenview is approximately 10 minutes away from Highland Park by car. Other towns in surrounding areas have done the same, like Evanston, Illinois, which also canceled their parade. The city also closed their beaches in the wake of the shooting. President Joe Biden also released a statement following the shooting, saying, in part, that he and First Lady Jill Biden are "shocked by the senseless gun violence that has yet again brought grief to an American community on this Independence Day."