WESTVILLE, Ill. (WCIA) – A bullet flew through the wall of Loni Hale’s Westville business this weekend. Now, after two people were hurt in a shooting, she and other neighbors are hoping the village will take action.
“It’s very scary and I think most of the community is alarmed,” Hale said.
Westville Police said in a news release officers responded to a parking lot across from a bar around 12:25 Saturday morning, where they saw a car leaving quickly with no lights on. After an officer tried initiating a traffic stop, the car drove away, until the driver lost control and landed in a ditch. Police say they apprehended the occupants who tried running away. They also recovered firearms. Later, at a Georgetown gas station, they found “at least two subjects with gunshot wounds, possibly stemming from the incident at 312 S. State.” But, they also said: “it is unknown at this time if the vehicle involved in the pursuit was involved in the shooting incident.”
“I had never picked up a bullet. I had seen a bullet, but I had never handled a bullet that had been discharged so it was pretty scary,” Hale said.
Hale says she never expected to find evidence on the floor of her hair salon that day.
“I was sweeping. I of course looked for the bullet entry point, which came completely through my wall,” she said.
She says what started as a garbage issue has turned into a major safety concern. Before the shooting, she’d notice broken bottles and empty containers near her business.
“The ladies have to clean up glass every morning,” Hale said.
Things escalated last week when she says there was a fight outside Sophia Stefani’s Tavern.
“There were people – maybe 20-25 people – in the road fighting. I would estimate for eight minutes they were blocking the road,” she said.
So, Hale says she contacted the owner, Brandon Bott.
“I did mention that he’s lucky they didn’t have guns in the first incident that happened the weekend before. And then this happened,” Hale said.
Now, adjacent businesses and homeowners want something to be done. One neighbor says two of her cars were damaged this weekend.
In a statement, Nicci Laughner said her thoughts are with the victims and their families.
“Our main concern is crowd control inside and outside the bar. When you accept responsibility for a parking lot that has recurring incidents and trouble, you should take the initiative to keep your customers safe and also the community safe,” Laughner said. “The feeling of hearing gunshots and running to your child and pull them away from danger is terrifying.”
“I think that anyone passing through Route 1 within the hours that this place has been open, seemingly between midnight and 3:30 in the morning, they aren’t safe,” Hale said.
In a social media post, Bott said: “I would never want anything bad to happen to anyone pertaining to any of my businesses.” He went on to say he’d be willing to pay for an officer to patrol during his bar’s late night hours, and that he will be attending a public hearing during which the village is expected to discuss potentially revoking, suspending or modifying his license.
“I think it’s a conversation that we need to have. I think other businesses are greatly affected,” Hale said.
Bott also said: “closing one bar down is not going to solve any issues. Another bar will become the problem.”
Westville Police say the shooting victims were taken to the hospital and their condition is unknown at this time. Neither police nor Bott responded to WCIA 3’s requests for comment. The public hearing is happening Friday, March 24, in the Westville Village Hall at 11:30 a.m.