Isaiah Box was in the wrong place at the right time.
The 25-year-old lives in Rockford, Illinois, sharing a home with his parents about a half mile from the Don Carter Lanes, where he was a regular at the upstairs tavern, Shooter’s Bar and Grill. He was there as usual this past Saturday, but left earlier than he normally does.
This, he now realizes, may have saved his life.
“I don’t know what made me leave—especially on a Saturday, I typically stay up there to watch football,” Box told The Daily Beast. “I happened to leave around 4:45, 5 o’clock, and went home.”
About two hours later, police say, active-duty U.S. Army Green Beret Duke Webb entered the Don Carter Lanes and opened fire, killing three and injuring three more.
A 16-year-old girl sitting at a table on the first floor was shot in the shoulder, followed by a 14-year-old boy who was shot in the face, according to police. The two were there to pick up takeout food. Both survived, but police say Webb then went up to the second-floor bar, where he shot and killed Dennis Steinhoff, 73; Thomas Furseth, 65; and Jerome Woodfork, 69.
A fourth, as-yet unidentified man, 62, was shot several times and remained in critical condition.
On Monday, an Illinois judge ordered Webb held without bail, pending a psychological evaluation, his lawyer said at an impromptu press conference. Attempts to reach his attorney for this story comment were unsuccessful, and Webb has not yet entered a plea.
Described in local reports as an “iconic home for family fun in Rockford,” the lanes at Don Carter were shut down due to COVID-19 restrictions, as was a downstairs bar. But Shooter’s, which has an outdoor space with double garage doors, was operating in compliance with health department regulations, according to Rockford police chief Dan O’Shea.
Box’s mom, Bridget, told The Daily Beast her son had been at Shooter’s “off and on” all day. He was getting ready to go back over there around 7 to meet some friends when his brother—who had also been at Shooter’s that day—called from his girlfriend’s house to say there had been a shooting. In disbelief, Box rushed over to see what was going on.
“I was sitting at the same table where one of the guys who got shot and died was,” Box said. “Another guy, who is now in critical condition, we were also sitting there talking, having a good time, like we do on a daily basis. It’s like our home away from home.”
Any motive is still unknown, but police say Webb didn’t know any of his victims personally and that the shooting appears to have been a random act. CBS Chicago said Webb has family members with ties to Illinois, but those relatives reportedly declined to elaborate further.
Webb, 37, resides in Shalimar, Florida. He has been awarded the Army Good Conduct Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Medal, and the Combat Action Badge, as well as two Bronze Stars, according to service records cited by the Associated Press. Webb, who joined the Army in 2008 and has deployed to Afghanistan four times, is charged with three counts of first degree murder and three counts of attempted first degree murder.
In Monday’s hearing, his attorney, Elizabeth Bucko, suggested that Webb may suffer from PTSD and has had issues with memory loss.
Jamey Funk, the general manager of Shooter’s, happened to be off on Saturday. But, he said, his son and daughter were both working the night of the murders. Both made it out alive, as did their coworkers.
However, Funk is now concerned for the psychological well-being of his entire staff. He says he is working to provide counseling for them, and partnering with a local bank to collect donations for the families of victims.
If the downstairs had been open, and filled with people, things could have been “a lot worse,” Funk noted.
“You see it on the news and you never think you would [experience] something like this,” Funk told The Daily Beast. “There’s no training as a manager on how to get through this. You’re at a loss on what to do, all you can do is cry when you're by yourself and be strong when you're with your staff.... All we can do is what we can do, and be there for the families of the victims and our staff. And that’s what we’re trying to do.”
A statement posted on the Don Carter Lanes website expressed shock and thanked police, who were reportedly on the scene in less than a minute, for responding so quickly. A vigil for the victims of the shooting is scheduled to take place outside the Don Carter Lanes at 6:30 pm Tuesday. Webb is due back in court Feb. 16.