Keegan Casteel has been accused by Chicago’s mayor and top cop of possibly planning a mass attack on Navy Pier crowds from the window of his hotel room over the Fourth of July weekend.
But police and court filings so far detail no such plans. And prosecutors offered nothing new Wednesday when Casteel briefly appeared in court over Zoom for his second hearing.
Documents in the case only describe how a housekeeper at Hotel W alerted police July 4 to room 1208, where officers found a loaded semi-automatic rifle with a laser scope, five ammunition clips and a loaded .45-caliber handgun.
The records do not detail how much ammunition was found, saying only there was “lots.” They also don’t contain any mention of any statement by Casteel, even whether he made one.
And there is nothing about why he was in town or whether there was anyone staying in the hotel room with him, though some media reports say he was visiting here with his girlfriend and two children.
Casteel, 32, was charged with two felony counts of aggravated unlawful use of a weapon after the judge reminded him that gun laws in Chicago are different than in Casteel’s home state of Iowa. Casteel has no Firearm Owners Identification card required in Illinois.
“You have permission to possess the firearms in the state of Iowa,” Judge David Navarro said during a hearing. “However, clearly, we’re not in Iowa.”
After he was released from jail July 7 on a relatively low $10,000 bond, Casteel walked up to an SUV and knelt in front of a woman who had just gotten out of the driver’s seat. He held a ring and appeared to propose and the woman appeared to accept before they drove off.
A judge allowed Casteel to return to his home near Des Moines where he has run an auto garage since the fall of 2019. He and his family have declined to comment.
During the hearing Wednesday, Casteel’s newly appointed attorney, John Brayman, reiterated to Judge Anthony Calabrese that his client has a concealed carry permit from Iowa.
Prosecutors disclosed no more details in their case, but said a grand jury would be reviewing it.
In the meantime, Casteel’s mugshot has been carried by media around the world along with the accusations from the mayor and the police superintendent.
Police Supt. David Brown disclosed the arrest on July 6 — two days after it was made — during a news conference where he was questioned about one of the most violent Fourth of July weekends in years, with over 100 people shot, including 13 children.
He noted that Casteel’s hotel room overlooked a portion of the Ohio Street Beach along Lake Michigan and Navy Pier.
Brown said the housekeeper who tipped off police “likely prevented a tragedy from happening,” adding, “Thank God for that hotel worker who saw something, and said something, and I believe averted disaster.”
Brown, and later the mayor, noted that Casteel was interviewed by the “joint terrorism task force” in Chicago.
Though no terrorism-related charges were filed, Lightfoot described the guns found in the room as “weapons of war.”
“Because he was charged with mere possession and legally, here in our city, the charges weren’t of the type that he could have been held,” she complained hours after Brown’s news conference. “But luckily, he was questioned by the joint terrorism task force. He is now under radar screening of the FBI.”
As described in the police report, officers found a PTR 91 semi-automatic rifle with a .308-caliber round in the chamber. It was fitted with a “laser and high-powered” scope.
There were also five ammunition clips with an “unknown amount” of ammunition, and an HK USP Tactical pistol with an “unknown amount of .45-caliber rounds.”
The housekeeper spotted the guns near a window “in a very suspicious position,” Brown told reporters, without elaborating.
But as the police report also notes, there is nothing suspicious in Casteel’s background: No outstanding arrest warrants, no investigative alerts, no threats on social media. He was neither on parole nor on probation.
“There’s no previous history of this person nor any issues in federal databases,” Brown acknowledged. “But obviously it’s very concerning given the position of the W Hotel to Navy Pier.”
Contributing: Stefano Esposito