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Iowa man found with rifle, pistol, ammo in lakefront hotel told police he brought weapons to Chicago by mistake

Video from body-worn cameras shows police officers on the scene were befuddled at what they found. They didn’t seem to think the man planned a violent attack, but also believed they may have prevented a mass shooting.

Keegan Casteel, 32, taking questions from Chicago police officers after being arrested with having a rifle, scope, pistol and several magazines with him.
Keegan Casteel, 32, taking questions from Chicago police officers after being arrested with having a rifle, scope, pistol and several magazines with him.
Screenshot from police body-worn camera video

An Iowa man arrested during the Fourth of July weekend with a rifle, scope and pistol at a downtown Chicago hotel told police officers he accidentally brought the guns with him, according to video from Chicago police officers’ body-worn camera obtained by the Sun-Times.

Keegan Casteel was unclothed when officers arrived at his room at Hotel W, 644 N. Lake Shore Dr., after a housekeeping employee tipped off police there were weapons and ammunition in his room. Casteel insisted he accidentally brought the bag with him after.

“It’s my gun bag and we just packed late at night,” 32-year-old Casteel said. “I emptied most of it.”

Casteel said they had spent the day in an Iowa hospital before leaving for Chicago and had a late start to packing. He thought he removed most items from the bag and believed the rifle was in its case.

Body-worn camera video shows police on the scene befuddled at what they found. They seemingly didn’t believe Casteel would carry out a violent attack but also believed they may have just prevented a mass shooting.

Chicago Police Supt. David Brown and Mayor Lori Lightfoot seemingly believed the latter; both touted the arrest, with Brown saying police “likely prevented a tragedy from happening,”

Casteel, an auto mechanic from Ankeny, Iowa, told officers he was visiting Chicago for the weekend to “have fun” with his family. His two children and girlfriend were with him in the room when officers arrived.

As Casteel’s children shouted and cried, an officer rounded up the weapons and ammunition. He stood at the foot of one bed disarming a handgun as a bullet flew out the chamber. On the bed sat five rifle magazines next to a children’s doll.

A Chicago police officer picking up five rifle magazines and a pistol inside a downtown hotel room.
A Chicago police officer picking up five rifle magazines and a pistol inside the downtown hotel room where Keegan Casteel had been staying with his children and girlfriend.
Screenshot from police body-worn camera video

The officer tried to calm the kids; they could trust him, he told the children, because he’s a police officer.

“We just got to talk to daddy really quick, OK? He’s not in any trouble, OK? We just got to talk to him, we just got to make sure the guns are OK, OK?,” the officer said. “You guys are OK. … There’s no need to cry.”

The hotel room was filled with stuffed animals, a pillow cover adorned with Disney princesses, and a Spiderman boogie board. Snacks, clothes, Nintendo Switch video games and fireworks sat on a desk underneath two hotel TVs.

The officer told him it was imperative for Casteel to do his research before bringing firearms with him on a trip. He noted the hotel even had notices posted indicating firearms weren’t allowed on the property.

“Brother, I wish you didn’t bring any of this sh-- with you,” the officer told him. “It kills me that your kids are here.”

During his interrogation back at the station, Casteel said he had planned to go to the beach and they needed a bag to take there. So he began making room in the bag, and that’s when he first noticed the rifle and pistol were still in it. He “obviously wasn’t going to have it in the bag” with them at the beach so he took them out and placed them somewhere in the room — which is where the housekeeper found it.

The officers’ biggest concern, they told each other on the scene, was the view from Casteel’s room. It overlooked Lake Michigan and Navy Pier. It was also Fourth of July weekend.

A second batch of officers came to the room after Casteel and his family were escorted out. As they stood in the hallway, they seemed concerned with what they found in the hotel room — passing around rifle magazines to each other.

On several occasions officers said “it could’ve been a Las Vegas thing” if they hadn’t gotten there when they did — referencing the deadliest mass shooting committed by one person in the United States, in which a gunman fired from a hotel onto an outdoor concert. The final tally there: 60 people killed, 411 others wounded.

“I’m just saying, like it’s too much of a high risk. … Holy f---,” one officer says before a rifle magazine is handed to her to look at.

“That’s not weapons or ammo that you carry for protection,” that officer said later in the video.

The officers tried to search every inch of the hotel room. They lifted the mattresses, looked inside the hotel’s ice bucket, pulled back the shower curtains and even inside the washroom’s toilet.

While searching through Casteel’s book bag one last time, they found another magazine for a pistol.

At the end of the search, two officers stood at the window overlooking Lake Michigan and Navy Pier.

“It’s scary, though,” one officer said.

“This doesn’t make sense,” the other officer responded looking out the window. “Why would you come with your family to do all that?”

“It’s not like it hasn’t happened before,” the other officer replied. “It is crazy though.”

A rifle with an attached scope being recovered by Chicago police inside a downtown hotel room.
A rifle with an attached scope being recovered by Chicago police inside a downtown hotel room.
Screenshot from police body-worn camera video.