Liquor store security guard gets 18 years for shooting customer who refused to wear a COVID mask

CHICAGO — When prosecutors accused liquor store security guard Chester Holmes of shooting a customer three times because they refused to put on a mask during the COVID pandemic, his defense attorney suggested that the shooting was self-defense.

“This is obviously going to be a self-defense case,” private attorney Jonathan Feldman argued during Holmes’ initial bail hearing. He summarized the case as “basically, a customer who’s unruly, who wants to put other lives at risk” by not wearing a COVID mask.

The argument didn’t go over well during that first court hearing, and it apparently didn’t become more convincing with time.

Yesterday, with a public defender listed as his attorney, Holmes was sentenced to 18 years in prison.

Holmes, barred from possessing a firearm because he is a four-time convicted felon and registered child sex offender, was working as an armed security guard at a liquor store in the 6000 block of South Racine when a 28-year-old man walked in without a COVID mask on August 23, 2021.

Holmes, 44, and the victim argued about the mask policy and the victim eventually walked out. But then he turned around and walked back in. When he did, Holmes met him with a drawn handgun and shot him, prosecutors said.

The victim fell to the ground outside the store.

Chester Holmes | Chicago Police Department; City of Chicago

Holmes, who Feldman said “has a big heart and is a kind-hearted man,” shot the victim again, then paced around and shot him a third time before running away, prosecutors alleged. The victim, shot in the stomach, arm, and leg, was taken to a hospital, where surgeons removed part of his intestines.

Prosecutors said Holmes was convicted of sexually assaulting a six-year-old girl and sexually abusing a 15-year-old girl in 2003. He has also served two prison terms for failing to follow sex offender registration requirements, officials said.

Yesterday, Holmes pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm and aggravated battery causing great bodily harm. Judge Adrienne Davis sentenced him to 13 years on the gun charge plus a consecutive five years for shooting the customer, according to court records.

With good behavior, he will be released after serving half of the sentences.

Prosecutors dropped several felonies, including four counts of attempted murder, in the plea deal. The aggravated battery charge was reduced from aggravated battery by discharging a firearm.

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Tim Hecke is CWBChicago's managing partner. He started his career at KMOX, the legendary news radio station in St. Louis. From there, he moved on to work at stations in Minneapolis, Chicago, and New York City. Tim went on to build syndicated radio news and content services that served every one of America's 100 largest radio markets. He became CWBChicago's managing partner in 2019. His email address is