ROCKFORD, Ill. – An Army sergeant based in Florida has been charged with murder after a shooting rampage at a bowling alley complex that left three people dead and three others wounded, authorities said Sunday.
Duke Webb, 37, was being held in the Winnebago County Jail without bond on three counts each of first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder in Saturday’s attack. His first court appearance was set for Monday.
“We believe this was a completely random act,” Police Chief Dan O’Shea said Sunday. “There is no prior meeting or any kind of relationship between the suspect and any of the victims in this case.”
The tragedy adds to what has been the deadliest year on record for this city of 150,000 people, 90 miles west of Chicago. Saturday’s killings marked 35 homicides this year, the most of any year on records dating back to 1965. The next highest total was 31, recorded in 1996.
Rockford’s issues are a recurring theme across the nation. More than 41,500 people died by gun violence this year nationwide, which is a record, according to the independent data collection and research group Gun Violence Archive.
Cities across America – including Milwaukee; Indianapolis; Cincinnati and Columbus, Ohio; Greensboro, North Carolina; Kansas City, Missouri; Louisville, Kentucky; and Trenton, New Jersey – have already surpassed their all-time records for homicides this year. Others, such as Philadelphia and Fort Worth, Texas, are seeing their highest numbers in decades.
Mayor Tom McNamara said the eyes of the nation are on his city, and that its residents must show how they “respond to an incident such as this, as one Rockford, supporting one another and coming together.”
“This type of violence in the city of Rockford needs to stop,” McNamara said. “This type of violence throughout our country needs to stop.”
Webb, a resident of Florida, was taken into custody within minutes of officers arriving on the scene. He had attempted to conceal his identity and hide two weapons that were recovered from the scene, O’Shea said. No officers fired their weapons while taking Webb into custody, O’Shea said.
The Army said Webb is a special forces assistant operations and intelligence sergeant assigned based 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,’ said Col. John W. Sannes, commander of 7th Special Forces Group. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those killed and wounded.”
Don Carter Lanes includes the alley, a bar and an off-track betting site. The bowling alley and lower level of the complex was closed because of COVID-19 regulations, but an upstairs bar was operating within compliance with about 20 to 25 people, O’Shea said.
“The two teenage victims were picking up food. It’s a carryout establishment as well,” O’Shea said. “They were not in the bar area.”
O’Shea said shots were fired inside and outside of the complex. Most of the incident was captured on surveillance video inside the business, he said.
Webb is charged with fatally shooting three men ages 73, 65 and 69. He also is accused of shooting and wounding a 14-year-old boy, who was shot in the face and airlifted to a hospital in Madison, a 16-year-old girl and a 62-year-old man, who is in critical condition after undergoing surgery from the shooting.
Contributing: Grace Hauck, USA TODAY; The Associated Press