WGN Investigates: Sinister plot envisioned after arrest of man with guns in hotel not backed up by records

WGN Investigates

CHICAGO — City officials portrayed the arrest of an Iowa man found with multiple guns in a hotel room overlooking the lakefront as a crisis averted, but newly obtained records don’t quite match their rhetoric.

When police arrested Keegan Casteel, of Ankeny, Iowa, Fourth of July weekend during his stay at the W Hotel, they found guns and ammo.

Two days after the arrest, Chicago officials said the hotel employee who alerted authorities as a hero.

“Thank God for that hotel worker who saw something and said something and I believe averted a disaster,” said Mayor Lightfoot.

Casteel was hit with two felony counts of aggravated unlawful use of a weapon and spent a night in the Cook County Jail before bonding out.

Police reports obtained by WGN Investigates show officers found a semi-automatic PTR-91 without a serial number, four additional rifle magazines with unknown amounts of ammunition near a window and a loaded handgun.

What they don’t show is any evidence of a potentially sinister plot as envisioned by the police superintendent and mayor.

Casteel told officers he “left [the weapons] in the hotel room when he went to the beach” – and police did find “an empty tactical bag with what appeared to be sand from a beach,” according to the police report.

Police and hotel employees have been on alert to shooting threats since 2017, when a gunman in Las Vegas used his room as a perch to spray automatic gunfire down on a country music crowd – killing 60 and injuring hundreds more.

In contrast, Casteel’s attorneys say he came to Chicago with plans to propose to his girlfriend on the Ferris Wheel at Navy Pier.

He wound-up doing so minutes after being released from jail.

In a statement, Casteel’s attorney said that his clients purpose for bringing the guns was violent crime in the city.

“While the Superintendent and other public officials have made Mr. Casteel a scapegoat in the face of widespread violence and actual shootings in the City of Chicago, he is nothing more than a law-abiding person exercising his Second Amendment Rights. The fact that good people feel the need to arm themselves when traveling to Chicago is the real problem that our public officials need to address.”

It was still illegal for Casteel to possess loaded weapons in Chicago. WGN Investigates reached out to Mayor Lightfoot and Supt. Brown for comment, but have not heard back at this time.

Read more Chicago news headlines here.

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