‘So scary’: Joliet residents describe fear, unease before suspect wanted for fatally shooting 8 died

JOLIET, Ill. — Police vehicles and orange cones lined West Acres Road in Joliet Tuesday morning, blocking access to two homes that were the site of one of the worst crime scenes suburban police say they’ve ever seen.

Romeo Nance, the 23-year-old man wanted in the fatal shootings of eight people in the Joliet area, died from a self-inflicted gunshot Monday night after being pursued by U.S. Marshals in Texas. As of Tuesday, morning, only one of the victims, Toyosi Bakare, a 28-year-old man originally from Nigeria, had been identified by officials.

In Joliet, residents of the typically quiet and safe neighborhood where the victims had been found said they’d been gripped with fear before the suspect died.

Carpenter Ruben Dunaven shoveled snow Tuesday morning in his driveway. He hadn’t heard about the shooting until a friend texted him Monday night that the area near his house was closed off.

“It’s surprising,” Dunaven said. “This is supposed to be the nicer part of Joliet.”

The search for Nance ended after the Medina County Sheriff’s office in Texas said they received a call that he was heading into their county Monday night. Police said Nance died at about 8:30 p.m. after shooting himself with a handgun following a confrontation with law enforcement at a gas station in Natalia, a town about 30 miles southwest of San Antonio.

The Medina County Sheriff’s Office declined to comment on the case, saying the Texas Department of Public Safety is handling the investigation. It’s unclear why Nance headed for Texas.

Deputies from the Will County Sheriff’s Office found five dead individuals in one home and two in another home in the 2200 block of West Acres Road on Monday, Joliet police said in a statement. The victims appeared to have died from gunshot wounds, police said.

“I’ve been a policeman 29 years and this is probably the worst crime scene I’ve ever been associated with,” Joliet police Chief Williams Evans said at a news conference Monday night, before Nance was found. The homes’ front yards were surrounded with caution tape that flapped gently as rain drizzled down Tuesday morning.

Nataly Contreras, 13, said her family scrambled to lock all the doors at their home on Madison Street, which is adjacent to the crime scene.

“It’s just crazy that it happened so close to us,” said her brother, 19-year-old Gustavo Contreras.

Another resident on Taylor Street said she found out about the shooting when she heard police sirens blaring.

“It was so scary. When they caught the guy, I was so relieved,” said the resident, who didn’t give her name. “I could finally let my dog out in our yard.”

Dan Jungles, deputy chief with the Will County sheriff’s office, said they discovered the seven victims while investigating another shooting that took place Sunday at the Pheasant Run Apartments in Unincorporated Joliet Township.

Jungles said police found Bakare with blood coming out of his head. He was transferred to Ascension St. Joseph Medical Center in Joliet where he later died.

A news conference is scheduled at the Joliet City Hall at 2 p.m.

Monday night, police said they did not know of a motive for the killings. Authorities said Nance knew the victims. No age range of the victims was released.

In January 2023, prosecutors charged Nance with aggravated discharge of a firearm, aggravated assault, aggravated unlawful use of a weapon and reckless discharge of a firearm, according to Will County court records.

Nance has three other open cases in Will County, charging him with criminal damage to government property, obstruction of a peace officer and battery. Nance was also cited for traffic violations in Will County 10 times between late 2019 and early 2023, court records show.

In January 2023, Nance was charged with unlawful discharge of a weapon after a road rage incident in which he shot a woman multiple times in Joliet. He was released from jail pending trial.