Defense attorney: Iowa man who had guns in Streeterville hotel room had a secret plot — to propose on the Navy Pier Ferris wheel

The small town Iowa man who Mayor Lori Lightfoot said had “nefarious” plans after a Streeterville hotel housekeeper spotted a gun in his guest room on July 4 has hired an expensive big city attorney to handle his defense.

Lawyer Jonathan Brayman pushed back strongly against the apparently baseless claims that Lightfoot and CPD Supt. David Brown made when they suggested the man intended to unleash a torrent of gunfire onto the Chicago lakefront from his hotel room window.

But 32-year-old Keegan Casteel did have a secret plan when he drove his long-time girlfriend from suburban Des Moines to Chicago for the Fourth of July weekend, Brayman said: He planned to propose on the Navy Pier Ferris wheel.

“In fact, when police responded to Mr. Casteel’s hotel room, he was getting ready for the engagement proposal and had a diamond ring hidden in the hotel room,” Brayman said Wednesday.

But Casteel’s not-so-nefarious plan was cut short a couple of hours before the proposal would have taken place. That’s when a housekeeper entered their 12th-floor room at the W Hotel, 644 North Lake Shore Drive, and allegedly saw a gun sitting on the window sill. The hotel notified police, who knocked on the couple’s door.

Casteel’s girlfriend answered the door for officers around 6:45 p.m., and Casteel, who is licensed to own firearms and conceal carry in Iowa, freely admitted that there were guns in the room, prosecutors later said. Police allegedly seized a handgun, a rifle, and five ammunition magazines.

Lightfoot claimed Casteel came to Chicago “with an arsenal, an AR-15…Thank God for that hotel worker who saw something and said something, and I believe averted disaster.” In fact, the rifle police recovered was a .308 caliber, not an AR-15, prosecutors said.

“This wasn’t a firearm for personal protection. What he had was weapons of war,” Lightfoot continued, saying the seized items represented “something more nefarious.”

Brown told reporters, “Thank God for that hotel worker who saw something and said something and I believe averted disaster.” He said the police intervention “likely prevented a tragedy from happening.”

Brown and Lightfoot — who spoke after federal investigators walked away from the case without seeking charges — offered no evidence to support claims that Casteel had evil intentions.

“This baseless accusation against Mr. Casteel spurred sensational media coverage, despite the dearth of evidence that our client had any ill intent,” Brayman said Wednesday.

Shortly after Casteel bailed out of jail, TV cameras recorded him claiming the diamond ring from the 18th District police station and getting down on one knee to propose to his girlfriend in the middle of the street outside.

Nonetheless, prosecutors in the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office are taking Casteel’s case to a grand jury, Brayman said.

The attorney said Brown and “other public officials” made Casteel a “scapegoat in the face of widespread violence and actual shootings in the city.”

“We look forward to defending Mr. Casteel in a court of law,” Brayman concluded.

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CWBChicago was created in 2013 by five residents of Wrigleyville and Boystown who had grown disheartened with inaccurate information that was being provided at local Community Policing (CAPS) meetings. Our coverage area has expanded since then to cover Lincoln Park, River North, The Loop, Uptown, and other North Side Areas. But our mission remains unchanged: To provide original public safety reporting with better context and greater detail than mainstream media outlets. Our editorial email address is