Posted on: July 7, 2023, 09:36h.
Last updated on: July 7, 2023, 09:37h.
Harrah’s Joliet in Illinois southwest of Chicago was evacuated on Friday, June 30, after a housekeeper discovered what they thought to be explosives in a guestroom. Law enforcement later determined the items to be “commercial-grade fireworks.”
The incident resulted in the riverboat casino and adjacent hotel being evacuated around noon that day. A bomb squad from the Cook County Sheriff’s Office was brought in to clear the property. Police additionally found more commercial-grade fireworks in a vehicle in the casino’s parking garage belonging to the individual who was on the room reservation.
Joliet Police later identified Thomas Lopez, 42, of Joliet, as the alleged culprit. Lopez has a lengthy rap sheet and is currently facing charges for DUI, aggravated battery, and use of a deadly weapon in an incident that occurred in early April.
Fireworks remain illegal in Illinois other than novelty products such as sparklers, bottle rockets, Roman candles, and smoke grenades. Violating the law — officially the Pyrotechnic Use Act — is a class A misdemeanor punishable by fines up to $2,500 and a year in prison.
Illinois is one of only three states that prohibit most consumer fireworks.
Joliet Police said apprehending Lopez was not an easy feat. Law enforcement tracked Lopez down to a party bus in the area but the driver of the Ford E-450 vehicle was uncooperative.
Police said they pulled over the party bus around 11 pm on Tuesday, July 1, near Kelly and Ingalls avenues about two miles from the Harrah’s Joliet casino. The driver, 36-year-old Joshua Cargle, refused to comply with police in furnishing his driver’s license.
Cargle had a reason for trying to evade the police. Law enforcement said he was driving on a suspended license. He was charged with obstructing the administration of law enforcement and driving on revoked driver’s license.
Lopez was taken into custody for possession of fireworks. A search of the party bus vehicle turned up illegal drugs, including cocaine and Ecstasy. Anti-anxiety pills were also discovered.
According to Will County Court records, Lopez has not yet been formally charged for fireworks possession. He’s next due in court on July 13 for the pretrial of his aggravated battery/DUI case.
Police said in that matter, Lopez allegedly got into an altercation outside a bar before he decided to purposely run his Ford Econoline van into another man’s Chevrolet Malibu. The incident happened outside One More Time Sports Bar at 1527 N. Raynor Avenue in Crest Hill.
The US Consumer Product Safety Commission reported last month that there were an estimated 10,200 fireworks-related injuries treated in hospital emergency departments last year. The independent agency of the US government says there is a “statistically significant trend in estimated emergency department-treated, fireworks-related injuries from 2007 through 2002.”
This trend estimates an increase of 535 fireworks injuries per year,” the agency reported.
Though fireworks-related injuries are increasing, there were only 11 fireworks-related deaths in 2022.