Updated July 7 with an image of the allegedly seized weapons.
Update July 7, 9:25 p.m. — After bonding out on Wednesday, Keegan Casteel presented a ring and proposed to his girlfriend, the wife of his children, as a gaggle of TV news cameras and reporters looked on. Police previously said the woman who was in the hotel room with Casteel was his wife.
Chicago’s mayor and police superintendent used dramatic language Tuesday after a Streeterville hotel housekeeper allegedly found a rifle sitting on a hotel room window sill over the weekend.
But neither Lori Lightfoot nor David Brown explained why they believed the city had “adverted disaster” and “nefarious” plans.
Keegan Casteel, a 32-year-old visitor from suburban Des Moines, Iowa, was charged Tuesday with two counts of unlawful use of a weapon. He must pay a $1,000 deposit to get out of jail.
Assistant State’s Attorney Brian Burkhardt said police went to the W Hotel, 644 North Lake Shore Drive, on the Fourth of July after a housekeeper saw a “large rifle” and ammunition as she prepared to clean Casteel’s 12th-floor room, which overlooked Ohio Street Beach.
Casteel’s wife answered the door when police knocked around 6:45 p.m., and officers met with Casteel personally at the hotel, according to a CPD report. Casteel, who is licensed to own firearms in Iowa, freely admitted that there were guns in the room, Burkhardt said. Police then seized the weapons.
A source with knowledge of the investigation said it appears Casteel forgot to take the guns and magazines out of his car before driving to Chicago and he brought them to his room rather than leave them in the vehicle.
But Brown said officers found a loaded rifle “in a very suspicious position” on the room’s window sill. Four loaded ammunition magazines and a loaded handgun were also recovered, Burkhardt said. The rifle was equipped with a “high power laser sight,” according to Burkhardt. He said the rifle did not have a visible serial number, but he did not say that the serial number had been removed.
“I understand…that you have permission to possess the firearms in the state of Iowa. However, clearly, we’re not in Iowa,” Judge David Navarro said during Casteel’s bond court appearance.
The FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force met with Casteel, but no federal charges were filed. His only criminal background involves two misdemeanor convictions for operating a vehicle while intoxicated — in 2010 and again in 2012, Burkhardt said.
Casteel owns a mechanic shop in Iowa and has two children.
Burkhardt did not suggest that Casteel had plans to use the weapons, but that didn’t stop Brown and Lightfoot from making strong suggestions.
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, according to Burkhardt.
“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.” She offered no evidence that Casteel harbored any evil intentions to support her belief.
Brown, appearing at an earlier press conference, said the housekeeper who allegedly discovered the rifle “likely prevented a tragedy from happening.” But he offered nothing to support the claim.