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NORTH LAWNDALE — A man accused of shooting 15 people at a West Side Halloween party fired “indiscriminately” into the crowd after organizers kicked him out and had shut down the event, prosecutors said Tuesday.
William Groves, 48, is charged with attempted murder and other felonies in the Sunday shooting that wounded 15 people inside the unsanctioned party. He was denied bail at a Tuesday court hearing.
Groves, who lives in Auburn Gresham, attended a Halloween party Saturday into Sunday morning at a retail building in the 1200 block of South Pulaski Road in North Lawndale, Assistant State’s Attorney Lorraine Scaduto said at the hearing.
Prosecutors said the party was thrown by two comedians and promoted on social media.
Groves bought tickets to the party, which featured a DJ, bartenders and security guards. But Graves was escorted out for being intoxicated, “after bumping into several people and spilling their drinks,” Scaduto said.
Groves returned a few minutes later and got in a fight with someone outside the venue when he wasn’t allowed back inside, Scaduto said.
Organizers of the event then informed everyone upstairs that the party was over, and the lights were turned back on, Scaduto said.
As people began to file out, witnesses saw Groves return again with a gun in his hand, raising the weapon and “firing indiscriminately into the crowded venue,” Scaduto said.
“People ran and people fell to the ground,” Scaduto said. “They got inside or ducked behind objects until the shooting stopped.”
Fifteen people were shot around 1 a.m. Sunday, officials said. The victims are 26 to 53 years old, officials said. Two were taken to Mt. Sinai Hospital in critical condition, and their conditions have since stabilized, a hospital spokesperson said Monday.
Groves was “apprehended within minutes” nearby, Scaduto said. Three on-site witnesses identified Groves as the shooter and two more people identified him in a photo array, Scaduto said.
Ten shell casings found at the scene matched the .357 semi-automatic handgun Groves had when he was arrested, Scaduto said.
Another seven 9mm casings were found at the scene, prosecutors said.
“The investigation continues as it relates to that ballistic evidence,” First Assistant State’s Attorney Risa Lanier said.
Prosecutors asked that Groves be held in jail pending trial, arguing that he is a danger to the community. Judge David L. Kelly agreed.
“And Mr. Groves, by his own actions on that night, demonstrated what a danger he is to the community,” Scaduto said. “The defendant didn’t just threaten, he went back to the very scene, where he had been escorted from, and literally opened fire, striking 15 people, causing 15 people to be taken to the hospital for injuries sustained, causing 15 people to never be the same.”
Groves is a six-time convicted felon, with past charges including delivery of controlled substances, unlawful use of a weapon, theft, armed robbery and aggravated battery with a firearm, with a repeated history of violating his parole, Scaduto said.
Public defender Marco Raimondi attempted to cast doubt the witnesses’ identification of Groves as the shooter, saying there was no evidence anyone at the party knew Groves beforehand or had enough time to look at him and figure out who he was.
But Scaduto said security outside the venue had interacted with Groves before, during and after the shooting. Prosecutors also said the witnesses offered the same description of Groves and the clothes he was wearing.
Kelly added that the lights had been turned on at the party before the shooting, and five people identified Groves.
Groves works for the CTA, provides for three children and owns a home in Chicago, Raimondi said. He is a bus service operator for the transit agency, working at a CTA garage to maintain its bus fleet, a spokesperson confirmed.
Groves has been “removed from active service” pending the outcome of the police investigation, the spokesperson said.
“The events of the past weekend are utterly reprehensible, and such alleged actions are not at all reflective of the thousands of hardworking and dedicated men and women of CTA who serve and connect the communities of Chicago,” the agency said in a statement.
Supt. Larry Snelling joined Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, Mayor Brandon Johnson, Rep. Danny Davis and Ald. Monique Scott (24th) at a press conference Tuesday morning before the court hearing.
Investigators are still probing how Groves had a gun, given his record, officials said.
“He’s a convicted felon who should not have had a gun,” Snelling said.
Foxx thanked police for their “swift work” in arresting Groves after the shooting, as well as partygoers and community members who cooperated with investigators and prosecutors.
Foxx noted that the attack was among several other mass shootings throughout the country in recent days, and recalled the East Garfield Park shooting last year in which one man was killed and 13 other people were wounded.
“They’ve become all too familiar in places like Chicago, where we’ve seemingly become numb to the violence,” Foxx said. “This should be shocking to our system. This should shake us to our core.”
The business that hosted the party, licensed as an art gallery, has been shut down by police, Snelling said. The host of the Halloween party, which had about 100 attendees, has a “history of throwing unlicensed events,” 10th District Cmdr. William Betancourt previously said.
Prosecutors and city officials will look into other potential criminal and permitting issues at the building, Foxx said.
“We want to see how they were able to get into the building, if they falsely applied for permits. … Were they not truthful in their application?” Foxx said. “We want to ensure that something like this doesn’t happen again.”
An “emergency assistance center” for victims and neighbors will be open until 7 p.m. Tuesday at YMEN, 1241 S. Pulaski Road.
“Our communities have been impacted for a very long time by the recklessness of those who wish to create harm and fear,” Johnson said. “We see the trauma that’s manifested.”
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