Chicago Police Sergeant Sticks to Fatal Shooting Story | WBEZ
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Chicago Police Sergeant Sticks To Fatal Shooting Story Despite Contradictory Physical Evidence

In defiance of his own hired expert, Chicago Police Sgt. John Poulos took the stand in federal court Tuesday and insisted that Kajuan Raye was pointing a gun at him when he shot and killed the teen.

In his testimony in the ongoing civil trial over the killing, Poulos described Raye turning while running and pointing a gun at him - forcing him to fire.

“I thought he was going to shoot at me,” Poulos said. “I was in fear for my life. I’m not afraid to say it, I was scared.”

Poulos said as soon as he saw Raye point the gun, he raised his own gun, aimed and fired one shot which hit the 19-year-old in the back and killed him.

But an expert hired by Poulos’ defense team says the physical evidence shows the gun was in Raye’s pocket when Poulos fired the fatal shot, not in the teenager’s hand. That conclusion affirmed an analysis by an expert hired by Raye’s mother who is suing Poulos and the city over the fatal shooting.

Both experts found that the bullet that killed Raye traveled through his body and struck the gun sitting in the inside, left-breast pocket of Raye’s jacket. The gun was damaged by the bullet and the bloodied bullet was found in the pocket.

Through the first two days of trial, attorneys for the city have tried to downplay those expert findings, while attorneys for the Raye family have tried to get the jury to look past the fact that Raye was illegally carrying a gun.

On the stand Tuesday, Poulos acknowledged the physical evidence showing the gun was in Raye’s pocket, but insisted Raye was pointing the gun at him when he fired.

Poulos’ attorney Brian Gainer asked the sergeant if he had “any explanation” for why his story was contradicted by the physical evidence.

“I do not,” Poulos answered.

In his questioning of Poulos, Raye attorney Michael Oppenheimer suggested it was implausible that Raye would point a gun at an officer while running full speed from him, and gaining distance.

Oppenheimer asked Poulos if he actually fired because Raye was getting away, and never saw a gun in the teen’s hand.

“That is absurd,” Poulos answered. “He pointed a gun at me two times, sir.”

Raye’s gun has been the subject of much suspicion and discussion since the 2016 shooting. It was not recovered until nearly three months after Raye was killed. Initially the family disputed that the gun belonged to Raye, and hired an expert to examine the gun. But that expert concluded that the gun did in fact belong to Raye, and used the bullet trajectory and damage to the gun itself to show it was in Raye’s pocket.

It is still unclear how the gun ended up under a bush months after the shooting. Raye ran for about half a block after he was shot, and Poulos said that as Raye lay wounded on the ground he told Poulos he had tossed the gun.

Oppenheimer asked Poulos if he was worried when the gun wasn’t found immediately.

“It’s always concerning when there’s a police-involved shooting and a gun doesn’t turn up,” Poulos answered.

That response drew a slight sarcastic chuckle from Oppenheimer. Poulos shot another man in 2013 and no gun was ever found in that incident.

Poulos told investigators he had mistaken a suspected burglar’s watch for a gun and shot him.

Judge Manish Shah has barred attorneys from mentioning that previous shooting during the Raye trial.

Patrick Smith is a reporter on WBEZ’s Criminal Justice Desk. Follow him @pksmid. Email him at psmith@wbez.org.

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