Mass killing in a Joliet neighborhood: ‘Too damn close to home’

Neighbors react after latest tragedy in America happens up the street

Dan Burns stands on the porch of his Joliet home on Taylor Street, the next street over from the where the West Acres Road killings occurred. Jan. 23, 2024.

Dan Burns pointed out he could look from his driveway and see one of the Joliet houses where seven people were shot to death.

“Too damn close to home,” Burns said, emphatically expressing what many of his neighbors were feeling Tuesday morning, a day after seven people were found shot to death inside two separate homes in the 2200 block of West Acres Road in Joliet.

The names of the seven victims were released Tuesday afternoon by the office of Will County Coroner Laurie H. Summers.

Toyosi Bakare, 28, formerly of Nigeria, was fatally shot on Sunday at the Pheasant Run Apartments in Joliet Township and a non-fatal shooting of a 42-year-old man in the 200 block of Davis Street.

Christine Esters, 38, Tameka Nance, 47, William Esters II, 35, Joshua Nance, 31, all of Joliet, Alexandria Nance, 20, and a 16-year-old female and 14-year-old female all were pronounced dead at the scene.

Police said Tuesday they did not yet have a motive into why the suspect committed the acts. Romeo Nance, 23, of Joliet was found by law enforcement Monday in Texas where police say he took his own life after being confronted by various police.

Joliet and Will County law enforcement say Nance is the suspect in the fatal shooting of Toyosi Bakare, 28, formerly of Nigeria, on Sunday at the Pheasant Run Apartments in Joliet Township and a non-fatal shooting of a 42-year-old man in the 200 block of Davis Street.

News of mass shootings has become commonplace in the U.S., but residents here said it still hits hard when it happens, especially close to home.

“I’m telling you, I’ve got two kids – an 8-year-old and a 2-year-old,” Burns said. “We moved out of the city to get away from that.”

Burns and his family moved from the southwest side of Chicago to his Taylor Street home in Joliet two years ago after there was a shooting at a school carnival.

Police tape marks off a sidewalk in the 2200 block of West Acres Road in Joliet. Nov. 23, 2024

Joliet police on Tuesday blocked both ends of the 2200 block of West Acres Road where the seven bodies were found, making it impossible for reporters to knock on the doors of those who lived closest to the homes where the victims were found.

But the impact may not have been much different from others who live in the neighborhood.

“It’s pretty devastating,” said Rick Becker, a retired resident on Madison Street who spent much of Monday lying on the couch feeling incapacitated by what happened.

Becker, who lives at the end of West Acres Road, could see the yellow police tape strapped outside the houses where the killings occurred.

It’s always been a nice neighborhood, Becker said. He and his wife like to take walks and eat at Maurie’s Table, a longtime local favorite restaurant located nearby on Glenwood Avenue.

“I’m not sure I’m going to walk down that street for awhile,” Becker said of West Acres Road. “I’m struggling with, ‘Can I go to Maurie’s Table for a hamburger?’ Today I won’t.”

The killings occurred within a block of Ascension Saint Joseph–Joliet hospital, an area filled with medical offices and professional buildings. It’s bordered by usually quiet middle-class neighborhoods like the one where the shootings occurred.

“I don’t like being this close to it,” Jim Schumacher said. “That’s for sure.”

Nevertheless, Schumacher, who also lives on Madison Street at the end of West Acres Road, said, “I feel safe here.”

Schumacher said the slaughter that occurred up the street “could have happened next door. It could have happened nine miles away.”

Thomas Mueller, who lives on the other end of West Acres Road on Springfield Avenue, looked at the police car and barriers set up to prevent people from entering the street Tuesday morning and described it as “shocking.”

“I never worried for my safety here,” said Mueller, a military recruiter who moved from Florida to Joliet eight months ago. “I was mind-blown by this happening here.”

A Joliet police car and barriers block entry to the 2200 block of West Acres Road from Springfield Avenue on Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2024.

Zach, a Taylor Street resident who did not want to give his last name, said residents in the neighborhood include a number of Joliet police officers and firefighters, which contributed to a sense of safety.

“Hopefully, this doesn’t give our neighborhood a bad reputation,” he said.

Zach and others seemed to recognize that living in a nice neighborhood these days doesn’t mean there won’t be a senseless slaughter at a house up the street.

“This is a surprise,” said one Taylor Street resident who did not want to give her name. “But you don’t know anymore.”