Keegan Casteel is an Iowa man arrested at a Chicago hotel with a rifle, laser sight and ammunition on the Fourth of July, authorities say. His room at the W Hotel Lakeshore overlooked Ohio Street Beach on North Lake Shore Drive and is near the Navy Pier, prosecutors said. Casteel was released after posting $10,000 bail after making his first court appearance on July 6, 2021, CBS Chicago reports.
The 32-year-old Casteel is from Ankeny, Iowa, according to authorities. It was not immediately known if he has hired an attorney who could speak on his behalf. He and his family could not be reached for comment by Heavy. Police and prosecutors did not say why Casteel had the rifle, ammunition and accessories for the weapon in his hotel room during the holiday weekend.
“Obviously this was very concerning given the positioning of the W Hotel to Navy Pier,” Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown said at a press conference, referencing the popular tourist attraction along Lake Michigan. Prosecutors said the Ohio Street Beach area was crowded with people for the July 4th holiday, according to CBS Chicago.
Here’s what you need to know about Keegan Casteel:
1. Police Said the Rifle Was in a ‘Very Suspicious Position’ in the Window Sill of the Hotel Room
Chicago Police responded to the W Hotel at 644 North Lake Shore Drive about 6:45 p.m. on July 4 after receiving reports from an employee at the hotel of a rifle and handgun in a “very suspicious position” inside of the hotel rooms, Brown said at a press conference on July 6. “We responded and arrested a Keegan Casteel,” Brown said. He said police found a handgun, rifle and five rifle magazines on the window sill of the hotel room where Casteel was staying, Brown told reporters. According to authorities, it was a housekeeper who reported seeing the gun.
“Our Joint Terrorism Task Force officers debriefed, interviewed, this person along with a companion and we are continuing this investigation,” Brown said. “The employee alerted us. We made contact with this person, made the arrest, began interviews and we are also conducting gun tracing of both the rifle and the handgun for further investigation.” The companion was not identified by Brown, but WGN reported it was Casteel’s wife. It was not immediately known if she could also face charges in connection to the case.
According to WGN, Casteel had a .308 caliber rifle, a high-powered scope, a semi-automatic handgun and five rifle magazines were found by police in the hotel room. The news station added that the rifle’s serial number was not visible. Prosecutors said Casteel admitted to having the guns in his room. In court, the prosecutors said Casteel had a “high-powered laser sight attachment,” WTTW reports.
2. Casteel Was Charged With Aggravated Unlawful Use of a Weapon & a Judge Told Him While He’s Legally Able to Own the Gun in His Home State, ‘Clearly, We Aren’t in Iowa’
According to Cook County court records, Casteel was charged with two counts of felony unlawful use of a weapon. CBS Chicago reports that the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office said during Casteel’s first court appearance on July 6 that Casteel does not have a Firearm Owners Identification Card, which is a requirement to legally possess a gun in Illinois.
According to WGN, police are retaining possession of Casteel’s guns, but he is allowed to return to Iowa as a condition of his release. He is required to return to Illinois for his court hearings, the news station reports. His next hearing in Cook County court is scheduled for July 14, according to WGN. “I understand through the state’s proffer and from your attorney that you have permission to possess the firearm in the state of Iowa. However, clearly we’re not in Iowa,” Cook County Judge David Navarro said during Casteel’s first hearing, according to WTTW.
Aggravated UUAW is a class 4 felony in Illinois, according to Chicago criminal defense attorney Robert Callahan’s website, “This is a class 4 felony without a possibility of probation, meaning if convicted you go to prison for 1-3 years. Possessing a gun with a defaced serial number bumps it to a cl. 3 felony, at 2-5 years in prison.”
3. Casteel Has Multiple Past Arrests in Iowa, Court Records Show
While Brown told reporters Casteel has “no previous criminal history” nor “any other issues in our federal databases,” a search of Iowa court records show he has been arrested there multiple times. He does not appear to have a prior criminal record or any previous arrests in Cook County or elsewhere in Illinois. He does not have a felony record in Iowa. Casteel’s most recent arrest was in September 2019, when he was charged with failure to provide proof of financial liability. The charge was dropped a month later, records show. He was also charged with the same violation in July 2019 and was found guilty, resulting in a fine.
Casteel was found guilty in 2005 with operating a vehicle without registration in Polk County, Iowa, court records show. In 2006, he was found guilty of drag racing and careless driving, records show. He was ordered to pay a fine. Keegan was charged with operating a vehicle while intoxicated, first offense, in 2010.
In 2012, Casteel was found guilty by a jury of operation a vehicle while intoxicated, second offense, an aggravated misdemeanor, and he was sentenced to 730 days in prison, with credit for time served and 723 days suspended. He was also sentenced to 18 months of probation. In 2014, Casteel was charged with driving with a denied or revoked license, but the charge was dismissed.
4. Casteel Is the Owner of Omni Garage in Des Moines, Iowa
Casteel owns the Omni Garage in Des Moines, Iowa, according to his LinkedIn profile. He opened the car repair shop in 2019. Casteel said on his profile he is a “master automotive technician” and “advanced engine specialist.” He was previously an auto technician at a tire and auto shop and a certified technician at a Des Moines Audi and VW dealership, he said on LinkedIn.
According to his Facebook profile, Casteel is married and has two children. He is a native of Ankeny and graduated from Ankeny High School, his Facebook page says.
Casteel’s Facebook page received several posts about the Chicago arrest on July 6. One friend, Stan Fatov, wrote, “He is a loving family man would never hurt anyone that loves his country and loves his rights so hope they can clear this negativity up.”
5. The Police Superintendent Praised the Hotel Employee for Seeing Something That ‘Likely Prevented a Tragedy From Happening’ & the Mayor Says She Believes Casteel Brought the ‘Weapons of War’ to Chicago for ‘Nefarious Reasons,’ Not ‘Personal Protection’
Brown, the Chicago Police superintendent said at a press conference, “We haven’t been having a lot of hotel service because of COVID. If you all have traveled any at all, changing out the towels, hasn’t happened all that much. So 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. 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 very quickly and potentially avoid a tragedy.”
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot added in a statement, according to CBS Chicago, “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 window sill. Thank God for that hotel worker, who saw something, and said something, and I believe averted disaster.”
Lightfoot added she was “not happy” that Casteel had been released on bail, the news station reported, and she added, “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.”
The mayor also said, “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.”
The W Hotel has not commented about the incident, citing the ongoing investigation. The hotel said in a statement to WLS, “As this is a matter under police investigation, we would respectfully redirect all media inquiries to the Chicago Police Department.”