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Man charged with Chicago murder after applying to be New Orleans police officer

Justin M. Payne | Orleans Parish sheriff's office

Justin Payne thought he was on his way to becoming a New Orleans police officer.

Instead, the 26-year-old will soon be on his way to Chicago to face murder charges in the 2016 death of his former boss at a Southwest Side trucking company.

After Payne applied to the New Orleans Police Department in October 2017, officials sent a reference request to his former employer, NOPD spokesman Beau Tidwell said.

Payne’s name raised a red flag for that employer, who called Chicago police — who, in turn, rang up New Orleans police to alert them that Payne was a suspect in a nearly year-old homicide case, Tidwell said.

Payne had worked in Chicago for Luis Pena, a 64-year-old found dead the morning of Dec. 30, 2016, in the office trailer of Pena’s firm in the 4200 block of South Keating, authorities said at the time.

CPD officers had been called for a report of a person shot, but Pena, a West Lawn neighborhood resident, died of multiple blunt-force and sharp-force injuries in a homicidal assault, an autopsy found. No arrests were made in the days after the attack.

After learning of the allegations, New Orleans police asked Payne to come to their headquarters, under the pretense of providing more information for his job application.

When Payne showed up on Wednesday, he was met by Chicago detectives, and he later confessed to the killing, Tidwell said.

An arrest warrant for first-degree murder was issued in Cook County for Payne on Thursday, court records show. A CPD spokesman confirmed the arrest but declined to release additional details until Payne is brought back to Chicago.

Payne — who is listed in court records as a resident of Whiting, Indiana — remains jailed without bond in New Orleans, ahead of a Monday extradition hearing.