The mother of a 19-year-old killed by police claims city investigators lied when they used a gun discovered months after her son’s death to clear the Chicago police officer who killed him.
Chicago Police Sgt. John Poulos shot Kajuan Raye in the West Englewood neighborhood in 2016. He told investigators that while he was chasing Raye, the teenager twice turned and pointed a gun at him.
Raye was killed by a single gunshot wound to the back, but no gun was recovered until nearly three months later, when a woman called 911 to report a gun in her bushes.
In a report released this month, Civilian Office of Police Accountability investigators concluded that the recovered gun belonged to Raye and Poulos acted within policy.
“I think that’s bulls***,” Raye’s mother, Karonisha Raye, said at a news conference Friday.
Raye, who has her son’s name tattooed on one arm and his face on the other, said police scoured the area after her son was killed trying to find the gun Poulos described and found nothing.
“They had canines, they had people up and down blocks, they had people raking up under bushes, raking in front of yards,” Raye said.
According to the COPA report, more than 40 Chicago police officers searched for a gun the night Kajuan Raye was killed and into the next morning. One forensic investigator described using a rake to comb through yards and bushes. He said it was “possible, but not probable” that they missed a handgun, according to the report.
Karonisha Raye said if her son was really carrying a gun, the police would have found it immediately after the shooting.
“I don’t care what they say they found, my son did not point no gun at that police officer, he knew better,” Raye said. “He was running away from him. He was trying to get away; he was trying to get home.”
Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said police “assume the offender gun was taken from the scene by an unknown individual” and then later placed in the bushes.
Karonisha Raye said that explanation does not make sense to her.
Activist Ja’Mal Green said the claim was an insulting story used to cover up “murder” by a police officer.
“Don’t sit here and tell me, ‘maybe somebody grabbed it, maybe somebody put it back,’” Green said Friday. “There’s no DNA evidence, or handprints, or fingerprints or anything on that gun that is Kajuan’s. That gun was not his.”
Investigators said they used “circumstantial, physical, testimonial, and social media evidence” to determine the recovered gun was in Kajuan Raye’s possession as he fled from Poulos.
Included in the summary report is a photo from Facebook that, according to investigators, shows the gun in Raye’s possession at some point before the shooting.
The day after Raye’s death, Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson questioned Poulos’ account of the shooting, saying there was “missing information” in the sergeant’s version of what happened.
Johnson attempted to fire Poulos in 2017 for lying in his application to be a police officer because he failed to disclose previous arrests. The Chicago Police Board ruled that those charges came too late and dismissed them.
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.
Raye’s mother is suing the city and Poulos over the shooting, claiming that Poulos acted “with reckless indifference and disregard for [Raye’s] constitutional rights.”
Patrick Smith is a reporter on WBEZ’s Criminal Justice desk. Follow him @pksmid.