Experts: Physical Evidence Shows Teen Had Gun, But Wasn’t Holding It When Shot By Police | WBEZ
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Experts: Physical Evidence Shows Teen Had Gun, But Wasn’t Holding It When Shot By Police

When Sgt. John Poulos shot and killed Kajuan Raye, he said the 19-year-old had a gun. But no gun was found.

Then, after three months, a gun turned up. It was found after a resident called 911 to report a gun in her front bushes.

The sudden appearance of the gun helped exonerate Poulos of any wrongdoing. Raye’s mother, Karonisha Raye, called the belated discovery of the gun “bulls***” at a press conference last year.

But in a new filing in Karonisha Raye’s lawsuit against the officer and the city she acknowledges that physical evidence shows her son did have that gun when he was killed.

However, that physical evidence also shows the gun was in Kajuan Raye’s jacket pocket when he was killed, disproving Poulos’ claim that Raye was pointing the gun at him when he shot the teen.

In a report filed with the court, forensic scientist Peter Diaczuk determined that the bullet that killed Raye entered through the teenager’s back, traveled through his body and exited out of his chest where it hit the handgun Raye was carrying in the breast pocket of his jacket.

Diaczuk was hired by Raye’s family, but his conclusion was confirmed by another expert hired by Poulos.

In a motion for summary judgment filed Monday, Karonisha Raye says those two expert opinions mean the judge overseeing her federal lawsuit should decide the case in her favor before it ever goes before a jury.

“Poulos has created a visible fiction to such an extent his own expert blatantly contradicts his account, and no reasonable jury could believe Poulos’ justification that Kajuan Raye pointed a firearm at Poulos,” attorney Jared Kosoglad wrote in the motion for summary judgment.

Chicago Law Department spokesman Michael Crowley declined to comment on the new filing.

Chicago’s Civilian Office of Police Accountability, or COPA, ruled Poulos’ 2016 killing of Raye was justified. But the agency’s report makes it clear that Poulos’ claim that Raye was pointing the gun at him was key to their determination.

Investigators noted that the fact that Raye had a gun “in and of itself, is insufficient justification for the use of deadly force.”

“The pertinent inquiry is whether it was reasonable for Sgt. Poulos to believe that Raye presented an imminent threat of harm and that deadly force was necessary to eliminate the threat,” the report reads.

Ultimately, investigators concluded that the discovery of the weapon and other evidence supported Poulos’ assertion that Raye pointed a gun at him.

In reaching that conclusion, “COPA analyzed the possibility that Raye’s gun may have been in his pocket at the time he was shot, not in his hand,” according to the report. But ultimately the agency determined the “theory is too remote and unlikely a possibility to sufficiently refute Sgt. Poulos’ account of the incident.”

The motion for summary judgment called that conclusion “remarkable” and claims it was the apparent result of a “failure” by city investigators to “adequately photograph and inspect the firearm or consult experts.”

COPA spokesman Ephraim Eaddy said the outcome of the agency’s investigation was “based entirely on the evidence and facts available at the time.”

Eaddy did not say whether the agency would reopen it’s investigation given the findings of the opposing experts that the gun was in fact in Raye’s pocket.

Poulos also shot and killed a man in 2013. The Independent Police Review Authority found that he acted within department policy in that incident as well.

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

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