A former Florida police officer has been indicted on charges of manslaughter by culpable negligence and attempted first-degree murder with a firearm for the fatal shooting of Corey Jones.
Jones, a 31-year-old church musician, was shot and killed by Palm Beach Gardens Police Officer Nouman Raja during the early morning hours of October 18 after his vehicle broke down on an Interstate 95 exit ramp.
Band-mate Mathew Huntsberger said at the time that he had already made it home after he and Jones had finished a gig at a Jupiter bar. He said Jones called him saying he was having car trouble and thought maybe his SUV needed oil.
According to Huntsberger, he brought some oil to Jones but it didn’t help prompting Jones to call AT&T Roadside Assistance for aid. Huntsberger then headed home at around 2:30 a.m. rationalizing that he could be of no further assistance.
That was approximately 45 minutes before Jones died at the hands of Raja. The officer, who was on duty in an unmarked patrol car and in plainclothes, reportedly believed Jones’ vehicle was abandoned and stopped to investigate it.
Police said as Raja exited his vehicle, “he was suddenly confronted by an armed subject,” and “as a result of the confrontation,” fatally shot Jones. Jones was armed with a legally purchased firearm he had acquired just three days earlier.
According to charging documents released by prosecutors on Wednesday, an audio recording of the interaction revealed that at no point did Raja identify himself to Jones as a police officer.
Additionally, Raja was not wearing his tactical vest identifying himself as a cop and his vehicle was not immediately distinguishable as a police car. In other words, Jones had no way of knowing who he was dealing with.
A transcript of the audio recording shows that Raja asked Jones if he was “good” several times before he began demanding that the stranded motorist put his hands in the air.
“You good?” Raja asked.
“I’m good,” Jones responded.
“Really?” Raja asked.
“Yeah, I’m good,” Jones said.
“Really?” Raja asked again.
“Yeah,” Jones said.
“Get your fucking hands up!” Raja demanded. “Get your fucking hands up!”
“Hold on!” Jones said.
“Get your fucking hands up!” Raja screamed again. “Drop!”
Charging documents said Raja then fired a total of six shots: three at first and then three more 10 seconds later. He then called 911 about 30 seconds after firing his last round and told operators that he saw Jones “come out with a handgun.”
After officers arrived on the scene, they found Jones’ body about 192 feet away from his car. His gun was found around 72 feet from the vehicle. During the altercation, Jones had thrown his pistol in the grass.
An investigation determined his firearm was not discharged and that Raja realized Jones was no longer in possession of the weapon, but fired the second volley of rounds anyway with “the intent of… kill[ing] Corey Jones.” It was during this second volley that Jones was stuck, a single time in the chest.
Following the shooting, Jones’ family said they were devastated and couldn’t imagine how their loved one – a well known church drummer with an excellent reputation in the community – could have ended up dead at the hands of a cop.
On Wednesday, prosecutors said that a grand jury concluded that Raja’s use of force in the incident was not justified. The manslaughter charge the officer faces is punishable by up to 15 years in prison. The attempted murder charge could put him in prison for life.
Jones’ family said in a statement that they “were relieved to learn that Officer Nouman Raja, who senselessly killed Corey Jones, was arrested and will face criminal charges for his reckless act,” but added that “nothing can bring back our son, brother and friend.”