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Police were called at least 3 times about noise at a Halloween party before nearly a dozen people were shot in Joliet Township

The gunfire erupted early Sunday near a DJ booth set up in the backyard of a home, authorities said. Witnesses reported two gunmen opened fire “from an elevated position on a porch looking down over the crowd” of more than 200 people.

A police car sits outside a house Sunday evening where more than 12 people were wounded, two of them fatally, in a shooting early Sunday at a Halloween party in Joliet Township.
A police car sits outside a house Sunday evening where more than 12 people were wounded, two of them fatally, in a shooting early Sunday at a Halloween party in Joliet Township.
Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Police had been called at least three times about excessive noise at a Halloween party on a normally quiet block in Joliet Township but had not tried to disperse the crowd of more than 200 people before gunfire erupted, killing two and wounding nine others.

Elizabeth Arias, a neighbor who said she was a relative of the people who threw the party, said the officers were “just out here waiting for them to leave.”

“This could’ve been avoided,” added Arias, whose son and niece were at the get-together.

The two people killed were identified by the Will County coroner’s office Monday as 22-year-old Joliet residents Holly Mathews and Jonathan Ceballos. They each died of a single gunshot wound.

The shooting erupted about 12:40 a.m. near a DJ booth set up in the backyard of a home in the 1000 block of East Jackson Street, according to the Will County sheriff’s office. Witnesses told detectives that two gunmen opened fire from an elevated position on a porch looking down over the crowd.

A patrol sergeant already in the area for complaints about the noise heard as many as 12 gunshots near Jackson and Walnut streets and began investigating, the sheriff’s office said. The sergeant saw over 100 people rushing east on Jackson from the home.

Police found wounded partygoers in the backyard and at nearby home, the sheriff’s office said. Authorities heard more shots as they were investigating in the area.

Police said the shooting appeared to be gang-related, but offered no details.

“Detectives have collected a substantial amount of evidence and are continuing to interview witnesses. Some victims and partygoers are being uncooperative,” the sheriff’s office said in a statement.

Nine of the wounded were taken by paramedics to hospitals. Five were released by Monday, three remained hospitalized and were expected to survive and one was still in critical condition, the sheriff’s office said.

Mathews and Ceballos were pronounced dead at the scene.

News of the Halloween gathering had spread on social media, attracting a larger crowd than what the organizers had expected, according to police.

Several neighbors knew something wasn’t right when they saw parked cars lined both sides of the streets in what is typically a quiet neighborhood. At least three people said they had called the police to report loud music and ask for crowd control.

Police tape blocks access to the house where more than 12 people were wounded, two of them fatally, in a shooting early Sunday at a Halloween party near the 1000 block of Jackson Street in Joliet Township.
Police tape blocks access to the house where more than 12 people were wounded, two of them fatally, in a shooting early Sunday at a Halloween party near the 1000 block of Jackson Street in Joliet Township.
Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Arias’ son told her that organizers had shut the music off and told people that the police were on their way in an attempt to get people to leave. But that didn’t happen.

Another woman who lived near the event said she heard the gunshots while she was in bed. When she got to her porch she saw a chaotic scene of a stampede of young people running, leaving behind crushed red cups and beer cans.

“It was crazy, kids running everywhere screaming. But police were here, they were on it,” the woman said.

Arias and her neighbor took in some of the rattled partygoers who were seeking shelter. “You could hear more shots being fired,” she said.

People were running through a wooded area near the home, using cellphone flashlights to see where they were going. Some jumped over a fence. “It was so scary,” Arias said. “It was something out of the movies.”

Arias said she had never seen anything like what happened Sunday morning. “That’s why I refuse to move because it’s so quiet here,” she said.

Another woman said she had moved to the area three years ago from the West Side of Chicago to get away from gun violence. “This is the first time” something like this happened, she said. “This is crazy.”

One of the suspected shooters was described as a Hispanic male with facial hair and a medium build who was seen wearing a red hooded sweatshirt, a black flat-billed hat and dark pants, the sheriff’s office said.

The other suspect, who donned a ski mask, was described as a male — possibly Hispanic or Black of a light complexion — with a medium build, the sheriff’s office said. He was seen wearing a yellow hooded sweatshirt.

The sheriff’s office asked for help identifying the shooters.

“With the amount of attendees at this party, we are most certain that several people know who committed this atrocious and deadly shooting,” the sheriff’s office said in a statement Monday.

Anyone with information, including cellphone photos or video of the party, can contact Detective Danielle Strohm at (815) 727-8574 or dstrohm@willcosheriff.org.

Tipsters who wish to remain anonymous can contact the sheriff’s office’s website or contact Will County Crime Stoppers at (800) 323-6734 or its website.