Former cop Nouman K. Raja stands trial for the 2015 shooting death of Corey Jones. Jurors in Palm Beach County, Florida will decide if there’s enough evidence to support a conviction for manslaughter by culpable negligence, or attempted first-degree murder with a firearm. Prosecutors say the defendant ignored his training in confronting the victim, an innocent man with vehicle problems.
Jones, a drummer in the reggae band “Future Prezidents,” had car troubles on the early morning of Oct. 18, 2015. This was after a show. He called another member of his band for help, and he also contacted a road ranger. They left, but not Jones, said prosecutors. He didn’t want to leave his vehicle out of concern that someone might break in and steal his drum-set. Also, Jones had a gun, a Jimenez Arms .380 caliber pistol, according to the complaint from the State Attorney’s Office of the 15th Judicial District.
Jones spent about an hour trying to get in touch with AT&T for roadside assistance, and he called multiple times, prosecutors said. Officials said he finally managed to speak to an operator at 3:12 a.m. The call was recorded. The first two minutes of the conversation were normal, but according to authorities, Raja approached Jones in the middle of the night, without a uniform, and in an unmarked vehicle.
This exchange was caught in the recorded phone conversation, said prosecutors:
Corey Jones: Huh?
Nouman Raja: You good?
Jones: I’m good.
Jones: Yeah, I’m good.
Raja: Get your fucking hands up! Get your fucking hands up!
Jones: Hold on!
Raja: Get your fucking hands up! Drop!
Raja, an officer with the Palm Beach Gardens Police Department, fired three shots within two seconds, authorities said. Then he fired another three times 10 seconds later. According to prosecutors, he claimed that Jones was armed. The victim’s gun was indeed found 72 feet from the rear of Jones’ vehicle, but it was never fired, authorities said.
Prosecutors argue that the defendant knew better to engage with the victim in this way. Raja–a firearms instructor with over 800 class hours under his belt–approached in an unmarked white cargo van, no emergency lights, dressed in casual clothes with a Caterpillar construction cap, and without a badge, authorities said. He allegedly also failed to follow a superior’s direction to wear a tactical vest, which would have identified him as a cop. The defendant never identified himself as a police officer in the recording, according to the complaint.
Authorities said the victim ran, and that Raja left cover to fire at him. At least one of the gunshot wounds–from a bullet that hit Jones’ right arm–was fired from the rear, prosecutors said.
At the time, the officer had been investigating auto burglaries in the area. You can see video of Raja speaking to investigators below:
The defense tried to dismiss the charges under the state’s “stand your ground” law. A court rejected this argument in a filing dated June 1, 2018.
“Regardless of the Defendant’s failure to follow police practices, Defendant Raja acted unreasonably and not as a prudent person under the circumstances and the law and therefore, his Motion for ‘Stand Your Ground’ immunity is therefore denied,” wrote Circuit Judge Samantha Schosberg Feuer.
The defense can still use this argument at trial.
Note: This article was updated to include video of Raja speaking to investigators.
[Screengrab via WPTV]