Hotel guest found with rifle in room overlooking Chicago lakefront

WGN Investigates

Update: Bond posted for Casteel Wednesday

CHICAGO — WGN Investigates has learned police took a man into custody after a .308 caliber rifle, high-powered scope, a semi-automatic pistol and ammunition were found in his hotel room overlooking Chicago’s lakefront.

Keegan Casteel, 32, of Ankeny, Iowa, faces two felony charges of aggravated unlawful use of a weapon. 

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A source told WGN Investigates a hotel employee alerted police after making the discovery on Sunday, July 4, at the W Hotel in the 600 Block of North Lake Shore Drive.  

It’s unclear whether Casteel had any sinister intentions for the weapons. Police said he did not possess a valid FOID card.

“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,” said Chicago police Supt. David Brown. “We ought to heap a lot of praise on that employee for being aware and letting us know so that we could act quickly and potentially avoid a tragedy.”

The rifle Casteel possessed did not have a visible serial number.

“There’s no previous history of this person nor any issues in federal databases, but obviously it’s very concerning given the position of the W Hotel to Navy Pier,” Brown added.

Hotel employees around the country were put on alert after a 2017 massacre in Las Vegas in which a lone gunman shot and killed 60 people and wounded several hundred others from a room at the Mandalay Bay Hotel overlooking a country music festival. 

The case hit close to home after it was revealed the gunman had months earlier rented a room at a hotel overlooking Grant Park the weekend of Lollapalooza. He never checked in for unknown reasons.

In the wake of the shooting, police departments across the country worked with hotel staff on ways they might detect a person who is bringing weapons into a facility.

“Five loaded magazines that he had perched up on the windowsill. Thank God for that hotel worker who saw something and said something and I believe, adverted disaster,” said Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot.

Casteel operates an auto body repair shop and is married with two young kids.

“Our Joint Terrorism Task Force interviewed this person along with his companion and we are continuing our investigation,” Brown said.

A Cook County Judge said while he had a license to own and carry guns in his native state, “Clearly, we’re not in Iowa,” and he shouldn’t have brought the weaponry to Chicago.

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The judge said Casteel could be released on $10,000 bond.  He can return to Iowa but has to come back to Chicago for all court hearings. Chicago police will keep the guns in their custody.

Casteel’s next hearing is set for July 14.

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