PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Former Palm Beach Gardens police officer Nouman Raja may have thought he’d gotten away with the killing of stranded motorist Corey Jones last October. But in a surprise move on June 1, eight months after Jones’ death, Raja was arrested and charged with killing the beloved musician while he was stranded in his broken down vehicle off I-95 in Palm Beach Gardens. Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg charged Raja with attempted murder and manslaughter in the shooting death of Jones. Raja spent two nights in jail and posted $250,000 bond and was released June 3. He is now on house arrest.
Jones’ family attorney, Benjamin Crump says if it weren’t for a recording from AT&T Roadside Assistance, the officer probably would have gotten away with murder. The audio proves that Jones was non-confrontational and that the officer fired shots at Jones without provocation. As the officer, who was wearing plain clothes and not in a police vehicle, became more aggressive in tone with Jones, Jones, could be heard saying, “Hold on!” But Raja used profanity at Jones and demanded he hold his hands up and seconds later, shots rang out. Ten seconds later, more shots rang out. Jones died at the scene and his body was found some 200 feet from his SUV. Prosecutors believe Jones was shot as he attempted to run away from the gun shots.
Jones, family and friends maintained all along that the church drummer was a gentle soul who would not confront police. The attorney says the truth finally prevailed through the audio tapes.
“Thank God for the audio tape from the tow truck company,” said Crump. “It’s very telling and it’s very objective. Corey was calm in answering the questions (from the officer). It’s apparent that Corey Jones never should have been killed that night,” Crump said. “The officer’s behavior was an insult to all good police work.”
Jones had been on the phone with the tow truck company when he was confronted by Raja. Jones family maintains Jones never knew Raja was a police officer, as he is never heard on the audio tape identifying himself as an officer. “It’s hard to know that my brother was bullied and never had a chance,” said Clinton “CJ” Jones, Jr. “This is a very big victory for good cops. But this hurts our soul. My brother was murdered by a cop,”he said during a news conference following the arrest. He questioned why it took so long for the audio tape to come to light. The family heard the tape the day of the arrest, but said they’ve known for months that a tape existed.
Corey Jones’ sister, Melissa, says the audio tape proves what their family already knew. “The audio tape proves what we’ve been saying all along. He was peaceful. Raja must pay. He cannot get away with this. I have to give all of my feelings, my hurt, my anger…I have to give it all to the Lord. That’s the only way I’m able to get through this – my faith.”
Attorney Darryl Parks says the family is hoping justice prevails now that charges have been brought forth. “This family is praying for a conviction in this case. There’s enough evidence to sustain a conviction for the officer’s killing of Corey Jones.”
Jones’ family and attorneys said the arrest gives them hope. “This is a sign of hope for America, because many grand juries have had more evidence than in this case, and they still didn’t result in charges. We want to thank this Grand Jury,” said Crump.
Corey Jones, 31, was known around the state as a beloved drummer who worked with numerous bands and also played for his church in Boynton Beach. His band mates and family were stunned when they learned he had been gunned down by a police officer in what was said to be a confrontation. Those who knew him said that was nearly impossible because he was a gentle person who never raised his voice.
His family claimed he would follow instructions and respect whatever an officer instructed him to do. He was not the type to defy authority, they said.
His death sparked outrage in South Florida and around the world, as yet another African American male was gunned down by police in cases similar throughout the United States in recent years. Jones family vowed that they would not go away quietly and would fight for justice for Jones.
Corey Jones’ father, Clinton, Sr., said after the arrest of Raja, that his family would fight for that justice until the very end. “We will continue to keep the beat alive for our son, Corey Jones.”