The Chicago Police Department announced on June 1 that its Bureau of Detectives had “cleared” 139 murder cases so far in 2022. “A homicide clearance rate of 58%,” the press release said.
But “clearing” a murder does not mean someone is charged with the murder. CPD can also “clear” a homicide if it believes the killer has died or if it’s confident about the case, but the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office refuses to pursue charges.
In fact only 63% of the 82 murders CPD cleared in the first three months of this year resulted in charges being filed, according to records provided to CWBChicago in a Freedom of Information Act request. Prosecutors refused to charge in 26% of the cases and 11% of the alleged killers were deceased.
And many of the cleared cases that are contributing to the department’s clearance rate are old. Five of the 82 murders cleared as of March 30 were committed before 2001. Another 19 were committed between 2003 and 2019.
Last year, CPD “cleared” 400 murder cases. Slightly fewer than half of those — 196 — were cleared by filing charges. Prosecutors refused to prosecute 136 cases and another 68 cases were cleared because the suspected murder was dead.
Six of last year’s cleared murders occurred before 2001. None of those was cleared by filing charges. Another 121 occurred from 2001 to 2019. Only 19 of those were cleared by filing charges. Per CPD’s records, 43 of last year’s cases were cleared by “death of offender” and 59 by “bar to prosecute,” meaning the state’s attorney’s office declined to pursue charges.
We wanted to learn more about the cases that CPD cleared without prosecution. Today, we begin a recurring series about what we found.
Nayya Malik Z. Thames-El, 22, was shot and killed as he sat in a car on the 5200 block of West Newport on the evening of April 16, 2020. Police said he was shot in the leg, arm, and head. The driver of the car he was in took him to Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center, where he died.
Nearly 18 months later, homicide detectives met with 20-year-old named Alexander Martinez in a CPD interview room and read him the Miranda warning, according to police records. Martinez allegedly waived his right to remain silent and provided a video recorded interview.
According to a police summary of the interview, Martinez admitted to taking part the homicide. He told cops he was completing a drug deal in the back seat of a car when the front seat passenger pointed a gun at his face and announced a robbery, the police summary said.
Martinez got out of the vehicle, drew his own gun, and began shooting into the car, killing Thames, according to CPD’s notes. At the time of the shooting, Martinez was on probation for felony unlawful use of a weapon, according to court records.
After the interview, police presented the case to an assistant state’s attorney for review. She rejected murder charges “after careful consideration of the facts of the case,” the police summary said.
Detectives released Martinez and cleared Thames’ murder on October 26, 2021.
One month later, on the day after Thanksgiving, Martinez was shot in the head and killed while traveling on the Eisenhower Expressway at Harlem Avenue. His murderer remains at large.
Prosecutors say four different gunmen were involved in a shootout that left one of them dead and four bystanders injured outside a Wicker Park nightclub in October. Prosecutors charged one man with firing some of the shots. But the two surviving gunmen, including the one who shot another gunman dead, have not been charged.
“It just shocks the conscience that any dispute now, it appears, is handled with bullets,” Judge John Lyke said after about the shootout during a hearing for the one man that prosecutors have charged, Teanius Sykes.
Sykes, his girlfriend, and the gunman who was killed, identified as 32-year-old Raymond Jones, were all leaving The Point nightclub when Jones began firing toward a crowd of people who were standing outside the bar around 3:42 a.m., Assistant State’s Attorney James Murphy said.
Someone fired back at Jones, and he was killed by a gunshot wound to the chest.
After the initial burst of gunfire ended, people began to stand up and walk around, Murphy said. That’s when Sykes allegedly grabbed a gun from his girlfriend’s glovebox and fired into the crowd.
According to CPD records, cops presented a murder case against another man involved in the shooting to the state’s attorney’s office, but they declined to prosecute.
Chicago police “cleared” the case on January 10.
In April 2020, Kimberly Todd parked her car near the corner of Magnolia and Ainslie in Uptown. For a few minutes, she and her passenger, Moses Joseph, sat in the vehicle.
Joseph finally stepped out and walked up to a group of four rival gang members who were standing on Magnolia, prosecutors said. Joseph started shooting at them, striking a 19-year-old man in the hand.
Darryl Young, 18, allegedly returned fire, killing Joseph with a shot to the back of the head, and fled the scene.
Upon hearing the gunshots, Todd ran to Joseph’s side and recovered his handgun from under his body, prosecutors said. As a passerby tried to save Joseph’s life, Todd allegedly hid Joseph’s gun in the woman’s bag.
Cops found Young with two other men in a yard on the 4800 block of North Magnolia shortly after the shooting. Police found a handgun nearby and Young allegedly admitted that he carried the weapon for self-defense.
Young’s public defender said he had a gun because “Chicago is a very dangerous place for a young Black man these days.” He said there was no proof that Young was a gang member as alleged by the state.
Prosecutors declined to pursue murder charges against Young because they considered it self defense, according to court records. Chicago police “cleared” the murder five months later.
But prosecutors did charge Young with unlawful use of a weapon and he went home on electronic monitoring.
Two months later, he escaped from electronic monitoring. He was allegedly carrying another gun when police caught up with him on the 4500 block of North Malden.
He eventually pleaded guilty to three counts of aggravated unlawful use of a weapon and escape from electronic monitoring. Judge James Linn sentenced him to three years on each count. Young’s parole date is set for January 3, 2025.
Todd, the woman who allegedly drove Moses Joseph to Uptown and then pulled his gun from under his body, pleaded guilty to two felonies and received two years for obstruction of justice and one year for aggravated unlawful use of a weapon in a gun case she had pending at the time of the Uptown shooting. She reported to Stateville Correctional Center on November 10 and was paroled the same day.