CHICAGO (CBS) — A worker at a prominent Gold Coast hotel “averted disaster” on the Fourth of July, after spotting a rifle with a scope and laser sight a guest had left “in a very suspicious position” in a room overlooking Ohio Street Beach, police and the mayor said Tuesday.
Police and prosecutors said, around 5:45 p.m. Sunday, an employee at the W Chicago Lakeshore hotel, at 644 N. Lake Shore Dr., found a .308-caliber rifle with a high-powered scope and laser sight attachment inside a 12th floor room. The worker also found a handgun and several magazines of ammunition.READ MORE: Chicago Weather: Slight Chance Of Storms Overnight; A Quiet Pattern To Come
Police said thanks to that alert by housekeeping, they recovered a semi automatic rifle with a live round in the chamber, handgun and several loaded rifle magazines on the window sill of Room 1208.
The Joint Terrorism Task Force interviewed him along with a companion. It’s an arrest that CPD Superintendent David Brown said would not have been made without the hotel’s help.
“This was unique that we’re still within COVID restrictions somewhat and this employee saw something by entering the room to clean it that likely prevented a tragedy from happening,” Brown said. “So it was significant and very valuable and we ought to keep a lot of praise on that employee for letting us know so we could act quickly and potentially avoid a tragedy. Thank God for that hotel worker, who saw something, and said something, and I believe averted disaster,”
The room overlooks Ohio Street Beach, which was crowded with visitors for the Fourth of July on Sunday, according to prosecutors.
Officers with the CPD Joint Terrorism Task Force questioned the guest, along with a companion, and arrested him on weapons charges.
Keegan Casteel, 32, of Ankeny, Iowa, was charged with two felony counts of unlawful use of a weapon. Prosecutors said Casteel admitted owning the guns, but he does not have a Firearm Owners Identification card, which is required to legally possess a gun in Illinois.
Keegan Casteel charged after housekeeping at the W Chicago alerted CPD to rifle with a live round in the chamber, handgun and loaded rifle magazines on the window sill.
— Megan Hickey (@MeganHickeyTV) July 6, 2021
Prosecutors says he is licensed to hold the guns in Iowa, but not in Illinois.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot praised the hotel worker who reported Casteel for his quick thinking.
“I want to thank the hotel worker who spotted this individual from Iowa who decided it was a good idea to come to our city with an arsenal, an AR-15, and five loaded magazines which he had perched up on the windowsill. Thank God for that hotel worker, who saw something, and said something, and I believe averted disaster,” she said.READ MORE: At Least 2 People Killed, 32 Wounded In Gun Violence In Chicago So Far This Weekend
A judge set Casteel’s bond at $10,000 on Tuesday. If he posts bail and is released from custody, he will be allowed to go back to Iowa, where he lives, while he awaits trial.
Lightfoot said she was “not happy” that Casteel likely will be able to be released on bail.
“Unfortunately, because he was charged with mere possession illegally here in our city, the charges weren’t of the type that he could have been held, but luckily he was questioned by the Joint Terrorism Task Force. He’s now on the radar screen of the FBI, and we have to make sure that this individual is somebody who is known to law enforcement not only here in Chicago, but back in Iowa where he came from,” she said.
Casteel had not posted bond as of Tuesday night and remained in custody.
Brown also thanked the hotel employee for quickly alerting police after finding the guns.
“This was unique that we’re still within COVID restrictions somewhat, and this employee saw something by entering the room to clean it, that likely prevented a tragedy from happening,” the superintendent said. “So it’s significant, and very valuable, and we ought to heap a lot of praise on that employee for being aware, and letting us know, so we could react quickly and potentially avoid a tragedy.”
Brown said Casteel does not have a previous criminal record, and investigators are working to trace both weapons.
While it’s still unclear what Casteel was planning to do with the weapons, Brown said the incident was “obviously very concerning, considering the position of the W Hotel to Navy Pier.”
Lightfoot also said she believes it’s clear there was “something more nefarious” behind Casteel’s decision to bring a rifle with a high-powered scope to Chicago from Iowa, rather than simply for personal protection.
“I’ve traveled to many states in my day. I didn’t think to take an arsenal with me. This wasn’t a firearm for personal protection. What he had was weapons of war. Five loaded magazines? That’s not, ‘I’m going to the big city, and I want to take my weapon,’ That’s something more nefarious, and luckily because of the really quick work of the hotel worker, a tragedy was averted,” she said.
A spokesperson for the hotel declined to comment, citing the ongoing police investigation.
On Tuesday, a judge set Casteel’s bond at $10,000 D, which means he must post $1,000 to get out and allowed him to live in Iowa while the case is pending.
His firearms were surrendered to Chicago police.MORE NEWS: 1 Killed, 2 Wounded In West Pullman Shooting