'Lean on your neighbors': Round Lake Beach residents gather after murders of three children
Members of a distraught Round Lake Beach community gathered Wednesday night to support each other after the deaths of three children who authorities say were killed by their father Monday.
The gathering at the Round Lake Beach Cultural & Civic Center was hosted by police department, which posted on its Facebook page that the event would be an opportunity for the community to heal.
"I assume many of you have a deep desire to do something, anything to show support and relay a message of love and compassion," Round Lake Beach Police Chief Gilbert Rivera said. "That's why we are gathered here tonight."
"Before you leave take time to meet and greet and know your neighbors and community partners," Rivera said.
Authorities said Bryant Karels, 5, Cassidy Karels, 3, and Gideon Karels, 2, were drowned by their father, Jason E. Karels, 35, who was charged Tuesday with three counts of first-degree murder and remains in jail pending trial.
The gathering was moved to a theater inside because of the heat outside. Organizers asked the media to leave so those in the larger-than-expected crowd could speak freely about their thoughts and concerns.
"I want everyone to feel safe," police chaplain Tim Perry said. "I want you to share and speak from the heart."
Perry called on the crowd to acknowledge the police officers, emergency medical technicians and Lake County coroner's office staff members working on the case.
"They are warriors," he said.
Round Lake Beach Mayor Scott Nickles also attended the gathering.
"Now's the time to lean on your neighbors and console one another as we begin the process of grieving together," Nickles said.