Local News

Peru police chief says FBI has been involved in Jelani Day investigation, responds to state lawmaker’s request

Chief Bob Pyszka said FBI said it will assist multi-jurisdictional unit, but not take lead on the case

The Peru Police Department, and the multi-jurisdictional unit investigating the death of Jelani Day, have contacted the FBI numerous times, as recently as last week, Chief Bob Pyszka said on Thursday.

The FBI told the multi-jurisdictional unit the federal agency will assist in all matters but will not take over the lead of the case, Pyszka said.

Pyszka shared the correspondence after both State Rep. Kam Buckner (D-Chicago), the House Black Caucus chair; and U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Chicago) have called for either state or national agencies to get more involved in the investigation in the past week.

Day, 25, an Illinois State University graduate student, was found dead Sept. 4 in the Illinois River near the Route 251 bridge in Peru. Day, who was reported missing Aug. 25, was identified through forensic dental identification and DNA testing and comparison. Two days after he he was last scene, Day’s vehicle was found Aug. 26 concealed in a wooded area near the Illinois Valley YMCA in Peru.

Day’s family has been critical of the investigation and his family, along with the Rainbow PUSH Coalition led by the Rev. Jesse Jackson, marched Tuesday in Peru to call for more answers in the case.

In Buckner’s case, he formally asked the Illinois State Police Division of Criminal Investigation take the lead in the investigation.

“The Illinois State Police has been involved with this investigation since the recovery of Mr. Day’s vehicle on Aug. 26,” Pyszka said in a Thursday press release.

Peru police received the letter via email at 7:09 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 21, despite it being drafted a week earlier, Pyszka said. Buckner dated the letter Oct. 14 and it was shared Oct. 20 on his Twitter account. Buckner had said on his Twitter account he didn’t send the letter to Pyszka until Oct. 20.

“I spoke with Rep. Buckner about his letter and the date of the letter via email correspondence,” Pyszka said. “Rep. Buckner indicated the date on the letter was the drafted date, not the date the letter was sent, and in fact, when the letter was first sent, it was sent to the wrong email address.”

Pyszka said “while I understand the pressure Rep. Buckner is fielding on this case,” he disagrees with Buckner’s statement there are “unsettling discrepancies and inconsistencies including with the analysis of surveillance video and securing of the crime scene among other issues.”

Pyszka said the multi-jurisdictional unit was given the final autopsy report Monday and have yet to be furnished the independent autopsy report the Day family had conducted. The final autopsy report said Day died of drowning, something Day’s family believes is not true, citing he’s an avid swimmer and would not be the type to harm himself.

“As far as other claims concerning the investigation I cannot comment as it is an ongoing investigation,” Pyszka said. “As of this date, Rep. Buckner and I have only had a small amount of email correspondence and he has not yet reached out to discuss the ‘discrepancies and inconsistencies’ he stated in his letter.”

Pyszka said the FBI has been given all files from the multi-jurisdictional unit concerning the Jelani Day case to analyze.

Rush wrote a letter Tuesday urging Attorney General Merrick Garland and FBI Director Christopher Wray to launch the investigation. The Peru Police Department, La Salle Police Department, Bloomington Police Department, La Salle County Sheriff’s Office and Illinois State Police have all been working together in the death investigation.

Pyszka has said the multi-jurisdictional unit will continue its investigation into how the drowning occurred.