Man accused of shooting 15 people at Halloween party was convicted of attempted murder in 2008, acquitted of murder in 1997: court records

CHICAGO — The man Chicago police say shot 15 people at a Halloween party over the weekend was convicted of attempted murder in 2008 and acquitted of first-degree murder in 1997, according to Cook County court records.

William A. Groves, 48, is now charged with 15 counts of attempted murder, 15 counts of aggravated battery by discharging a firearm, aggravated unlawful use of a weapon by a felon, possession of a defaced firearm, and aggravated discharge of a firearm in an occupied building in connection with the shooting early Sunday morning in Lawndale. Judge David Kelly ordered him detained as a public safety threat to await trial.

Groves was removed from a Halloween party in the 1200 block of South Pulaski, but returned with a gun and began shooting into the crowd, Chicago Police Supt. Larry Snelling said at a press conference Tuesday morning.

“He’s a convicted felon who should not have had a gun,” Snelling told the media, adding that the city issued a summary closure, shutting down the business that hosted the unlicensed party.

According to Snelling, partygoers’ information was “instrumental” in identifying Groves and filing charges. Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx echoed that sentiment, praising community members for providing information to police and prosecutors.

William Groves | Chicago Police Department

Cook County court records show Groves was found not guilty of murder in 1997, sentenced to 13 years for attempted murder in 2008, convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm and narcotics in 2000, and convicted of aggravated battery and theft from person in 2003.

The attempted murder conviction involved allegations that Groves shot a victim during a robbery, kidnapping, and carjacking in a parking lot in Englewood.

In the 2003 matter, Groves was accused of battering and robbing a victim at gunpoint in the 1200 block of West Argyle in Uptown.

During Tuesday’s press conference, CPD Chief of Detectives Antoinette Ursitti said investigators recovered a .357 caliber handgun that they believe was used in the shooting.

“It’s still under investigation as to how a convicted felon came in possession of that handgun,” Ursitti added.

More details about what happened at the party and Groves’ background is expected to be made public during a detention hearing this afternoon at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse.

Detention hearing

During Groves’ detention hearing on Tuesday afternoon, prosecutors said he and the other partygoers had purchased tickets to attend a “Halloween comedy party” hosted by a comedian.

Security guards hired for the event asked Groves to leave after he became intoxicated and bumped into several people, causing them to spill their drinks, according to a proffer provided by the Cook County state’s attorney’s office.

Groves returned a few minutes later, then got into a fight with an unknown person after security refused to let him back into the party, prosecutors said. Groves left again, and the venue manager announced to the crowd that the party was over.

Minutes later, as the crowd was leaving, Groves returned once again. This time, prosecutors say, he had a gun.

Groves fired “indiscriminately into the venue, sending partygoers running for cover and leaving 15 wounded, prosecutors alleged.

After the shooting stopped, Groves “ran outside and froze,” according to the state’s proffer. A bartender and the venue manager directed arriving police officers to Groves, who was standing across the street with a gun in his hand, officials said. The cops took him into custody and recovered the .357 semi-automatic handgun he was holding.

Prosecutors said police found 17 shell casings at the scene, ten .357 and seven 9-millimeter.

Preliminary ballistics testing determined that the .357 casings came from the gun Groves was holding, according to prosecutors. Officials don’t know who fired the 9-millimeter rounds.

The state’s proffer detailed each of the 15 victims’ injuries:

  • The comedian who hosted the party was shot in the elbow.
  • A man who uses a wheelchair was unable to get to the ground when the gunfire began. He was shot in the back, and the bullet traveled into his shoulder and skull. He may need surgery.
  • A woman who fell while trying to get away from the gunfire was shot multiple times.
  • A woman with the second victim was shot in both arms and may require additional surgery.
  • A woman was shot five times, in the hip, buttocks, elbow, and leg. Her hip bone shattered.
  • One victim was shot in the ankle, groin, and right thigh.
  • Another was shot multiple times in the hip, leg, buttocks, and left thigh.
  • Eight victims suffered single gunshot wounds to their arms, legs, feet, ankles, or buttocks.

All of the victims are now expected to recover, officials said.

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