A Florida police officer fatally shot a man who had stopped his car on the side of the highway and was waiting for a tow truck on October 18, police said.
Palm Beach Gardens Police Officer Nouman Raja, 38, killed Corey Jones, 31, who police say was armed and “confronted” the officer, who was in plainclothes and driving an unmarked car.
The shooting happened at about 3:15 a.m. on Interstate 95 in the south Florida city. Jones is a popular drummer who worked for a nearby city’s housing authority, played in several bands and was involved in his church, his family says.
Raja was fired by the department on November 12, WPTV reports.
On June 1, 2016, Raja was arrested and charged with manslaughter and attempted first-degree murder, the Palm Beach Post reports.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Raja Says He Was ‘Suddenly Confronted by an Armed Subject’
Raja was “on duty in a plain clothes 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.
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.
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.”
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.
2. He Was Disciplined for Twice Mishandling Evidence & Not Following Procedure During a Car Chase at a Previous Job
Raja was placed on paid administrative leave, as per department policy, prior to being fired. The shooting is being investigated by the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office.
According to the Sun-Sentinel, Raja, 38, previously worked for the Atlantis Police Department from 2008 until 2015. He was hired by the Palm Beach Gardens Police Department in April.
His disciplinary record with the Atlantis Police was released on Tuesday (read it above). He was disciplined three times: twice for mishandling evidence and once for not following proper procedure during a car chase.
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,” Benjamin Crump, the attorney representing Jones’ family, told the New York Times.
Raja was also an adjunct instructor at Palm Beach State College, teaching four courses in criminal justice part-time, WPTV reports. He is on administrative leave from that job as well.
3. Jones Was Waiting for a Tow Truck, His Family Says
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.
4. Jones May Not Have Known Raja Was a Police Officer
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.
His family said told the newspaper that Jones 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.”
5. Jones Worked as Housing Inspector
He was in several bands and played music around the area.
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.
His boss said she was shocked Jones 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.”
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.
About 100 family members, friends and others from the church community gathered for a prayer service Monday night.
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.”