ROCKFORD, Ill. — A U.S. Army Special Forces sergeant based in Florida has been charged in an apparently random shooting at an Illinois bowling alley that left three people dead and three wounded, authorities said Sunday.
Winnebago County State’s Attorney J. Hanley said Duke Webb, 37, has been charged with three counts of murder and three counts of first-degree attempted murder in the shooting at Don Carter Lanes, in Rockford, on Saturday evening. While no bowling is currently allowed due to state-imposed coronavirus restrictions, a bar linked to the business was legally open.
Webb was taken into custody shortly after the shooting at around 7 p.m., Rockford Police Chief Dan O’Shea said at a news conference Sunday morning.
“I am very confident the officers that were on the scene in the building were able to stop further violence,” O’Shea said.
He said the three who died were all men, aged 73, 65 and 69, but did not provide names.
Additionally, he said, a 14-year-old boy was shot in the face and airlifted to a hospital in Madison in stable condition, and a 16-year-old girl who was shot in the shoulder was treated at a hospital and released. A 62-year-old man underwent surgery overnight after suffering multiple gunshot wounds and is in critical condition, the chief said.
The suspect has no known ties to the victims, O’Shea said.
“We believe this was a completely random act, and there is no prior meeting or any kind of relationship between the suspect and any of the victims in this case,” O’Shea said. He did not provide information on what led up to the shooting.
The U.S. Army said Webb is a Special Forces assistant operations and intelligence sergeant assigned to 3rd Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne), located at Camp Bull Simons, Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. He joined the Army in 2008 and was on leave Saturday.
“We are shocked and saddened to learn about this tragic event and our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those killed and wounded,” Col. John W. Sannes, commander of 7th Special Forces Group, said in a statement.
Maj. Gen. John Brennan, who leads 1st Special Forces Command, said his unit intends to cooperate with the Rockford Police Department as the investigation proceeds.
“The alleged actions of Sgt. 1st Class Duke Webb are abhorrent and are absolutely not representative of the Special Forces Regiment,” Brennan said in a statement Sunday evening.
“The vast majority of men and women Green Berets live up to their storied reputation and earn their beret every day,” Brennan added. “The actions described in reports are shocking and are completely out of character with Webb’s twelve years of honorable service.”
The bowling alley was closed at the time of the shooting, in accordance with restrictions imposed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, O’Shea said. But a bar upstairs was open. The chief said the upstairs venue has double doors that open to the outside, ensuring the bar is in compliance with Illinois’ COVID-19 mitigation guidance.
Up to 25 people were at Don Carter Lanes when the shooting happened, but most of them escaped or hid, O’Shea said. He declined to say whether the shootings happened in the bar or elsewhere in the building, saying those details would come out in court. The teens who were wounded were picking up food at the carryout section of the bowling alley, he said.
He said the suspect tried to conceal his weapons before his arrest, and that he was apprehended without officers firing a shot.
“Most of the incident was captured on surveillance video from inside the business,” O’Shea said, adding that investigators are studying captured images.
O’Shea said investigators are in touch with the Army. He didn’t explain why the Florida man was in Illinois. The Army said it will provide full assistance in the police investigation.
The Rockford Register Star reported that 2020 has been the deadliest year on record for homicides in the city of about 170,000 residents about 80 miles (130 kilometers) northwest of Chicago. Thirty-five people have been killed in the city this year, breaking the previous record of 31 in 1996.
“As we come to the end of this most difficult year and we look ahead at this New Year upon us, we know that this type of violence needs to stop,” Mayor Tom McNamara said. “... And today, with the eyes of the country upon us, we need to show as Rockfordians how we respond to an incident such as this, as one Rockford, supporting one another.”
Kyle Rempfer is an editor and reporter whose investigations have covered combat operations, criminal cases, foreign military assistance and training accidents. Before entering journalism, Kyle served in U.S. Air Force Special Tactics and deployed in 2014 to Paktika Province, Afghanistan, and Baghdad, Iraq.