CHICAGO (AP) — A man suspected of shooting and killing eight people in suburban Chicago this weekend was related to most of the victims, authorities said Tuesday, a day after the 23-year-old fatally shot himself during a confrontation with law enforcement in Texas.
The Illinois authorities provided a clearer timeline of the shootings on Tuesday, saying they believe all eight people killed and a ninth person wounded were shot Sunday and Romeo Nance fled the area by that evening. But they told reporters there is no evidence of a motive yet for the killings.
“We can’t get inside his head,” Joliet Police Chief Bill Evans told reporters. “We just don’t have any clue as to why he did what he did.”
Investigators believe Nance first shot seven people at two relatives’ homes in the city of Joliet on Sunday, then fired randomly at two men — one outside an apartment building and another on a residential street, Joliet and Will County officials said Tuesday.
Police said they had not yet determined the victims' exact relationships to Nance.
The Will County coroner on Tuesday identified the victims found at the Joliet homes: 38-year-old Christine Esters, 47-year-old Tamaeka Nance, 35-year-old William Esters II, 31-year-old Joshua Nance and 20-year-old Alexandria Nance. The names of two teenage girls, 14 and 16, were not released.
Authorities previously identified the man killed outside the apartment building as Toyosi Bakare, a 28-year-old man originally from Nigeria who had been living in the U.S. for about three years.
Nance fatally shot himself Monday evening after U.S. Marshals located him near Natalia, Texas, about 30 miles southwest of San Antonio and more than 1,000 miles from Joliet, authorities said. He had no known ties to Texas, Illinois authorities confirmed Tuesday.
Nance's death was announced hours after Illinois authorities used social media and a news conference to share initial details of the killings there.
Medina County, Texas, Sheriff Randy Brown said his office received a call Monday about a person suspected in the Chicago-area killings heading into the county on Interstate 35. Brown said he believes the suspect was trying to reach Mexico.
“It seems like they (criminal suspects) all head to Mexico,” which is about 120 miles south of Natalia along Interstate 35, Brown said Tuesday.
Officers from multiple agencies confronted Nance, Brown said.
The Texas Rangers are investigating Nance’s death and believe he shot himself, said Lt. Jason Reyes, a spokesperson for the Texas Department of Public Safety, of which the Rangers are part.
Reyes said he could not provide any other information about the circumstances of Nance’s death or his confrontation with law enforcement officers, saying his agency was only brought in to investigate after the fact. The Rangers routinely investigate deaths involving law enforcement in Texas.
The Illinois shootings represent the fourth mass killing in the U.S. this year, according to a database maintained by The Associated Press and USA Today in a partnership with Northeastern University. The third happened Sunday in another Chicago-area suburb, Tinley Park, where police have charged a man with killing his wife and three adult daughters.
The database defines a mass killing as an attack in which four or more people have died, not including the perpetrator, within a 24-hour period.
The victims were found Sunday and Monday at three separate homes, authorities told reporters at a news conference earlier Monday evening.
Police were first notified of a man found with an apparent gunshot wound Sunday outside of apartments in Will County and pronounced dead at a hospital, later identified as Bakare. Shortly after, they learned of a man shot in the leg outside a home nearby.
Curtis Ellis said he lives next door to the man wounded in that shooting and captured it on a surveillance camera aimed at their street.
The footage shows the driver of a red car speaking briefly to Ellis’ neighbor, driving to the end of the block before making a U-turn then stopping and firing nine times. Ellis said he was watching the Detroit Lions play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in an NFL playoff game when he heard the shots, saw his hurt neighbor outside and called police.
“That could have been me or my wife in the front yard, which is scary,” Ellis, 56, said. “You haven’t done nothing to anybody, why would somebody just target to shoot you?”
Will County Chief Deputy Dan Jungles said deputies used video surveillance and license plate readers to identify the car of the suspected shooter late Sunday and to set up patrols near his known addresses. By Monday, the car hadn't been seen locally and deputies went to Nance's last known address around noon, the office said.
Jungles said no one answered at that home, they went to another home connected to Nance and his family across the street and saw blood on the door and bullet holes on the exterior of the house.
Police then forced their way into both addresses and found the bodies of the seven people killed, Jungles said. Authorities believed at one point that a three-year-old boy was missing, but the child was later found with a relative in another city, Evans told reporters Tuesday without providing more detail.
“I’ve been a policeman 29 years and this is probably the worst crime scene I’ve ever been associated with,” Evans said during a news conference outside the Joliet homes Monday evening.
Less than two hours later, a helicopter had identified Nance's car on I-35 in Texas and law enforcement there surrounded him at a gas station.