Prosecutors drop felony charges against Iowa man who had guns, ammunition in Chicago hotel room

CHICAGO (AP) — Prosecutors have dropped all felony charges against an Iowa man who was arrested in 2021 by Chicago police for having guns and ammunition in his hotel room overlooking a popular tourist attraction.

Cook County prosecutors dropped the felony charges against Keegan Casteel on Monday after he pleaded guilty to reckless conduct, a misdemeanor, and was ordered to pay a $500 fine.

The Ankeny, Iowa, man had faced two felony counts of aggravated unlawful use of a weapon, but no evidence was ever produced in court files that Casteel had anything nefarious planned, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

Casteel was arrested on July 4, 2021, when a housekeeper found the guns and ammunition in his room at the W Hotel. The weapons — a rifle with a laser sight, a handgun and ammunition — were found on the sill of a 12th-floor window that had a view of Ohio Street Beach and Navy Pier, a major tourist attraction along Lake Michigan.

Police video showed he told officers he “didn’t mean to startle anyone” and simply forgot to remove the firearms from a bag while packing for a trip to the city.

Then-Mayor Lori Lightfoot and the city's then-police superintendent both suggested after his arrest that Casteel, visiting with his family from Iowa, may have intended to fire on Navy Pier crowds.

Casteel said he had packed the guns and ammunition by mistake when he packed quickly the night before making the trip with his girlfriend and his two children and decided to keep the items in his room. He said he had traveled to Chicago to propose to his girlfriend on the Ferris wheel at Navy Pier.

Among the items police seized during a search of the hotel room was a diamond ring. And Casteel, then 32, proposed to his girlfriend immediately after being released from the Cook County Jail.

His attorney, Jonathan Brayman, told the Chicago Sun-Times on Tuesday that Casteel was questioned by a joint terrorism task force, which eventually cleared him and issued a report saying it had determined he did not pose a threat.

“I think he was very unfairly portrayed by the mayor and police in the media,” Brayman said of Casteel.

He said his client, an auto mechanic, was “happy to be putting the case behind him” and “wanted to move forward with his life."