A Florida man’s family is demanding answers after he was fatally shot by a plainclothes police officer in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, early Sunday morning while he was on the side of the highway with his disabled car.
Corey Jones, 31, a popular drummer in south Florida who played in the band at his church and worked as an inspector for a local city’s housing authority, was shot at about 3:15 a.m. by Officer Nouman Raja, police said in a press release.
Jones’ family says they weren’t notified that he had been killed until about 6 p.m. Sunday, about 15 hours after the shooting. Jones was armed with a handgun, that he legally owned and was permitted to carry. The gun was found outside the car, police said.
Raja fired six times, and Jones suffered three gunshot wounds. He did not fire his gun.
Raja was arrested on June 1, 2016, and charged with manslaughter and attempted first-degree murder.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Officer Says He Shot Jones After He Was ‘Suddenly Confronted by an Armed Subject’
Police said Officer Nouman Raja was “on duty in a plainclothes capacity, in an unmarked police vehicle,” before the shooting. He “stopped to investigate what he believed to be an abandoned vehicle on the southbound exit ramp of Interstate 95,” and PGA Boulevard, police said.
“As the officer exited his vehicle, he was suddenly confronted by an armed subject. As a result of the confrontation, the officer discharged his firearm resulting in the death of the subject, Corey Jones,” police said in a press release.
A source told the Palm Beach Post that Jones was armed with a gun, but may not have known Raja was a police officer because he wasn’t in uniform or a patrol car.
“The assumption is that the guy didn’t know he was a cop,” the unnamed source told the newspaper. The source said the altercation might have been a misunderstanding. Raja was working in the area on burglary surveillance, the source said, when he confronted Jones, and the incident lasted just seconds.
According to the South Florida website Gossip Extra, Raja was working a surveillance detail at a nearby hotel that has dealt with a rash of car thefts. He saw Jones on the ramp, and drove over to him.
“The officer was on a stakeout in the parking lot because they’ve had a rash of thefts in cars,” a police source told the website. “He had no business leaving his post without his supervisor’s permission, which he didn’t have. (Raja) should have radioed for a marked unit to investigate Jones, which he didn’t do.”
Jones had no criminal record.
Police said Raja was not wearing a body camera and the car did not have a dashboard camera.
The department posted the press release to its Facebook page, but then after receiving more than two dozen comments, deleted the entire page. The page has since been restored, without the press release.
The local police union has called on the department to be more transparent:
Jones’ family has hired attorney Benjamin Crump, who represented Trayvon Martin’s family in 2012, and the family of Michael Brown in 2014.
Raja has worked in Palm Beach Gardens since April. He previously worked for the Atlantic Police Department, also in Florida. His disciplinary record from his time there was released, and it shows that he was written-up three times, twice for mishandling evidence, and once for not following proper policy during a police pursuit. You can read the file below:
He left the department in good standing as a patrol sergeant to take the job in Palm Beach Gardens. According to the New York Times, Raja took a $10,000 pay cut to join the Palm Beach Gardens department, because of opportunities for future assignments and positions. His new department said he has not had disciplinary issues there.
“I think that certainly credibility is a huge issue at this point. Corey isn’t here to tell his version of what happened at 3 a.m. at PGA Boulevard, and so it is very important that you look back to see if the police officer who shot Corey Jones is credible or do we have reason to call his credibility into question,” Crump told the New York Times.
2. Jones Bought the Gun 3 Days Before the Shooting
Police said Tuesday that Jones bought his handgun just three days before the shooting.
The gun was found outside the vehicle, and the box which the gun was purchased in was found inside his car.
Jones’ family said told the newspaper that he owned a gun and had a permit.
“I remember him saying that, but Corey would never pull out a gun on anyone, and never on an officer,” his aunt, Serena Banks, told the newspaper. “Anyone that knew Corey knew that he was a very meek person. That’s why we don’t understand why anyone would mess with Corey. If he was a bad child, I would say so, but he was a good person with good judgment.”
Jones’ car broke down early Sunday morning after he left a music gig at a bar in Jupiter, his Future Prezidents bandmate, Matthew Huntsberger told the Palm Beach Post.
Huntsberger said the gig finished at about 1:20 a.m., and he had already made it home when he got a call from Jones saying he was having car trouble. Huntsberger went to the exit ramp, where Jones told him he began to have trouble on I-95 and pulled over to the nearest exit. He made it to the ramp and then pushed his car toward the end of it, Huntsberger told the newspaper. Huntsberger brought oil, but that didn’t solve the problem. Jones then called roadside assistance for a tow truck, and Huntsberger left because he couldn’t help.
That was at 2:30 a.m., 45 minutes before Jones was shot, according to the Palm Beach Post.
“He was sitting on the side of the road and got shot. We didn’t find out about it until about 12 hours later,” his uncle, Sylvester Banks Jr., told the Sun-Sentinel.
3. He Worked as a City Housing Inspector & Played Drums at His Church
He was in several bands and played music around the area.
His sister-in-law, Denise Jones, told WPBF, “He was just a quiet guy who, when he wasn’t working or playing drums, was sleeping. We just can’t understand how this could have happened.”
He is a graduate of the University of Akron with degrees in business administration and music, and mentored at My Brothers Keeper, a mentoring organization for black youth.
Jones was also heavily involved in his church.
“Everyone loved him. He was raised in church all his life,” his uncle, Sylvester Banks Jr., told the Sun-Sentinel.
He was set to play the drums Sunday morning at the Bible Church of God in Boynton Beach, where his grandfather, Sylvester Banks Sr., is a bishop.
Jones’ brother, C.J., played college football at Iowa and was a wide receiver in the NFL from 2003 to 2009 with the Cleveland Browns, New England Patriots, Seattle Seahawks, Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs.
Jones and his brother are cousins of Vince Wilfork, the Houston Texans defensive tackle, who mourned Jones’ death on Twitter:
Another cousin, Anquan Boldin, is a wide receiver for the San Francisco 49ers.
4. His Boss Says She’s ‘Shocked’ He Was Killed by a Police Officer
Corey Jones boss at the housing authority told WPBF-TV that she is shocked he was killed by a police officer.
“I am just overwhelmed by grief at this time,” his boss, Dorothy Ellington, told the news station. “He was the most humble human being that you would ever want to encounter. No way was he confrontational.”
Others echoed his boss’ thoughts.
“I guess I was the last one to see him,” Matthew Huntsberger, his bandmate, told the Palm Beach Post. “He was like a really peaceful guy. There’s no way he had a gun. We’re all musicians and stuff. We’re not violent people.”
Several people, many in the music business, paid tribute to Jones on social media, many using #JusticeForCorey.
“We grew up in church together, learning from one another! Laughed and played together, and you even played with me in my uncle Timothy A Fordham Sr homegoing celebration….. This is tearing me up inside and I am trying to hold it together. Lord you know all things and I am leaning on you and not on my own understanding. Give our family and friends strength!!! Miss you already bro. One of the most humbled, God fearing musicians I know,” Timothy Kitchens wrote on Facebook.
“Now it’s at our doorstep!!! What will it take? Will you speak up now? He didn’t deserve to die this way! His life mattered. From broken down and trying to get home and now he lays dead and the answers we seek will never be answered. I didn’t want to add another hashtag. I didn’t want this to be in my city, but truth is that it’s been happening and going unspoken for,” Jaylisa Edwards wrote on Facebook.
About 100 family members, friends and others from the church community gathered for a prayer service Monday night in Boynton Beach.
A peaceful protest is scheduled for Thursday.
David Lucas posted a photo of Jones in a recording studio, and wrote, “My friend, Corey Jones called for a tow and the police showed up and murdered him last night. A beautiful, peaceful man who was an amazing drummer and musician standing next to me in this photo. I just produced this band and it is so hard to believe and understand how this could happen. And we will never know the truth. Devastated. We hear of these things and now it’s on our doorstep. My friend Corey. Gone.”
Davey Pitruzello wrote, “Corey Jones’ percussive flow was solid as a rock. The best drummer I have ever met in my entire life. He had a heart of pure gold and there is no way that he deserved this. I pray that his murder does not go unjustified. RIP Corey.”
5. Officer Raja Was Fired in November
Raja was fired by the department on November 12, WPTV reports. The investigation into the shooting is continuing.
An audio recording was key in charges being filed. You can see a transcript of the interaction between Raja and Jones below:
Prosecutor Dave Aronberg told reporters Raja fired three shots, “deliberately, one shot per second.”
He was not wearing a tactical vest, as required, and didn’t have his police-issued radio or gun on him when he approached Jones, according to the prosecutor. He used his personal gun in the shooting.
According to the Sun-Sentinel, Raja, 38, previously worked for the Atlantis Police Department. It’s not clear how long he worked there. He was hired by the Palm Beach Gardens Police Department in April.