You may remember this story.
In the early morning hours of October 18, 2015, in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, a 31-year-old drummer and housing authority inspector experienced car trouble on I-95 on the way home from a musical gig.
His name was Corey Jones.
He was able to get his car to the shoulder of the road and call for assistance. Help came in the form of a road ranger, and a friend. Unable to get the car restarted, and unwilling to leave his drum kit and gear behind for thieves, Jones decided to stay after they left.
Jones remained with his car and gear and was on the phone with a roadside assistance operator when police officer Nouman Raja stopped on the shoulder of the road near Jones’ car. Raja was in plain clothes, driving a white, unmarked panel van, and it was dark. In a very short order he called 911 and informed the operator he had been fired upon, and had shot the perpetrator.
Since the Jones killing followed the highly promoted pattern of black men killed by the police the story quickly spread. Jones, by all accounts, was a solid citizen, gainfully employed, college educated, played drums at his church and in a band, and was well loved by family and friends.
Then it was confirmed that Jones had a gun, or at least a gun was found at the scene. Reported NBC News: Jones “was armed.”
The LA Times, asserting the details were “murky”:
In a news release, police said Raja was “suddenly confronted by an armed subject” as he got out of his vehicle.
“As a result of the confrontation, the officer discharged his firearm,” resulting in Jones’ death, the statement read.
The death of Corey Jones was not the death of an unarmed black man at the hands of the police, and the officer on scene claimed to have been fired upon.
In fact, this became the official narrative of the department. A text message sent from City Manager Ron Ferris to some city employees repeated the department narrative.
Early this morning One of our officers approached a suspicious vehicle at I 95 and PGA south bound ramp. Suspect opened fire our officer returned fire killing suspect. Our officer was not injured. PBSO is handling the [investigation].
Officer Raja, after exiting his vehicle, identified himself as a police officer to Jones. Jones, for reasons unknown, fired at the officer. The officer fired six shots, three of them hitting Jones, one of them proving fatal.
This is what everyone was told.
In fairly short order it was determined that Corey Jones had not fired his weapon. He was, in fact, a concealed carry permit holder. That is, he was licensed to carry the .380 he had purchased just 3 days earlier. The box with matching serial number was still in the car.
Jones’ family insisted he would never fire on a police officer, and they were right. He had not.
The facts are that (now former) officer Raja did not identify himself as a police officer.
Raja was not fired upon.
Raja did not fear for his life.
Raja lied and attempted to frame Corey Jones.
But, Raja did not know the entire encounter was being recorded.
As mentioned above Jones was on the phone with a roadside assistance operator when Raja stopped, exited his vehicle, and walked toward him. From the SunSentinel:
Jones was on his cellphone with a roadside assistance operator when Raja approached and their initial interaction was recorded, according to the State Attorney’s Office findings.
According to the transcript of the call, Jones is first heard saying, “Huh?”
“You good?” Raja asked.
“I’m good,” Jones said.
“Really?” Raja responded.
“Yeah; I’m good,” Jones said.
“Really?” Raja replied.
“Yeah,” Jones said.
“Get your f—— hands up! Get your f—— hands up!” Raja said.
“Hold on!” Jones said.
“Get your f—— hands up! Drop!” Raja said.
After saying, “drop,” Raja fired three gunshots within two seconds, according to the report.
After about 10 seconds, Raja fired three more shots — this time “more deliberately” with one shot every three seconds, the report said.
Raja did not identify himself during the shooting, according to the recording, and “there is no question that Jones ran away from Raja,” according to a probable cause affidavit.
Police say that as Raja approached, Jones had a gun that he was licensed to carry. The State Attorney’s Office findings determined that Raja kept shooting, even after Jones no longer held his weapon.
“There is sufficient evidence and probable cause to conclude Nouman Raja continued to discharge his firearm at Corey Jones after Raja realized Jones no longer possessed a firearm. The intent of discharging his firearm was to kill Corey Jones,” according to the state attorney’s findings.
That Raja didn’t realize the call was being recorded was his undoing. Immediately following his shooting of Jones, Raja called 911 from his own cell phone. From the State Attorney’s report:
About 33 seconds after Raja fired his final shot, he called 911 using his personal cellphone. As the call connected, Raja is heard yelling: “Drop that f—— gun right now!” the report said.
Raja gave his location to the operator and said he shot someone who “had a silver handgun in his right hand,” the report said.
“I came out, I saw him come out with a handgun. I gave him commands. I identified myself and he turned, pointed the gun at me, and started running. I shot him,” Raja told the 911 operator, according to the report.
Raja deliberately shot to kill, then when he was successful he sought to impugn the dead Jones by framing him. Raja, the law enforcement officer, murdered an innocent man then lied to cover it up.
In this particular case the process following the shooting has worked exactly like it should. Raja was fired from his position last November, less than a month after the shooting. Under departmental guidelines it means he failed “to complete his probation or didn’t meet the standards of his probation.”
Then, on June 1, 2016, Nouman Raja was charged with manslaughter and attempted first degree murder with a firearm and arrested. One can only hope he faces a jury rather than a judge.
We can also hope that full justice is done resulting in a conviction of Nouman Raja with sentencing equivalent to the crime.