Prosecutors in Cook County say a shooting at a Halloween party in Chicago’s Lawndale neighborhood that left 15 people injured over the weekend was committed by someone not legally allowed to possess a firearm.
48-year-old William Groves is now facing 15 counts of attempted murder, but it’s not the first time those charges have been laid against him. Authorities say in 2008 Groves was convicted for the same crime and sentenced to 13 years in prison, though his first felony conviction came years earlier.
Cook County court records show Groves was found not guilty of murder in 1997, sentenced to 13 years for attempted murder in 2008, convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm and narcotics in 2000, and convicted of aggravated battery and theft from person in 2003.
The attempted murder conviction involved allegations that Groves shot a victim during a robbery, kidnapping, and carjacking in a parking lot in Englewood.
In the 2003 matter, Groves was accused of battering and robbing a victim at gunpoint in the 1200 block of West Argyle in Uptown.
During Tuesday’s press conference, CPD Chief of Detectives Antoinette Ursitti said investigators recovered a .357 caliber handgun that they believe was used in the shooting.
“It’s still under investigation as to how a convicted felon came in possession of that handgun,” Ursitti added.
If Groves was convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm in 2000, he must have had a prior felony conviction sometime before then, though so far authorities haven’t said what led him to become a prohibited person more than twenty years ago.
Officials haven’t said how Groves obtained the gun he allegedly used in the shooting on Saturday night either, but CWB Chicago reports that he’s also been charged with possession of a defaced firearm. The gun was likely stolen, but we don’t know whether Groves had a role in that or if he instead purchased it on the underground market.
According to Chicago Police, Groves was at an “unlicensed” Halloween party at an art gallery called Studio 1258, which the city has since shut down. Much like the suspect, the location where the shooting took place has a troubled history of its own.
City records reviewed by CBS News Chicago also show the space may have been operating as an unlicensed party venue for years, and city inspectors previously documented the property as “dangerous and hazardous.”
Monday morning, police issued a summary closure order for Studio 1258, at 1258 S. Pulaski Rd, which was hosting the Halloween party at the time of the shooting. Publicly available inspection records from the city’s Department of Buildings show in 2021, inspectors issued several building code violations for operating the building as an “unlicensed party venue,” for not having fire extinguishers or smoke detectors on the first or second floors, and for performing work on a gut rehab without obtaining a permit or submitting proper plans from an architect or structural engineer.
The city’s Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP) said Studio 1258 was doing business as Hampton Brand Inc. Studio 1258 has an active current limited business license for an art gallery and art sales. But in 2021, city inspectors also questioned whether the property was actually being used that way.
“There are no plans or permits for the current use of this space as an unlicensed small assembly/public place of assembly,” a June 2021 inspection report said. “The current license states this is an ‘art gallery,’ yet there is no artwork.”
It is unclear what enforcement action was taken, if any, based off the 2021 violations. CBS News Chicago filed Freedom of Information Act Requests with the city Monday for more information.
And this past May, BACP also issued cease-and-desist orders and citations to the business for operating without a public place of amusement license and operating without a liquor license.
I’m guessing they weren’t operating with a great deal of security either.
Groves may have been able to avoid a lengthy prison stay in the past, but if he’s convicted on these current charges he’s looking at spending the next couple of decades behind bars.
Illinois lawmakers have spent a lot of time and energy this year going after lawful gun owners, including banning the sale of so-called assault weapons and “large capacity” magazines and requiring existing owners to submit an endorsement affidavit through their Firearm Owner’s Identification Card account. Meanwhile, it’s guys like Groves who are responsible for an outsized share of violent crime in Chicago; convicted felons with lengthy rap sheets who are busted time and time again. Maybe this time the litany of charges he’s facing will be serious enough to provide some actual consequences, but given the soft-on-crime approach adopted by Illinois Democrats in Springfield, I wouldn’t count on it.