“Hold on!”: The Last Words of Corey Jones
June 3, 2016 (Mimesis Law) — On October 18, 2015, Corey Jones was waiting for a wrecker on I-95 in Palm Beach Gardens and was on the phone with the roadside assistance operator. Jones was a drummer for a church band and had a legally owned and carried gun. While he was waiting for the wrecker, a plain van drove up and a white guy jumped out and confronted Jones.
The white guy was Palm Beach Gardens police officer Nouman Raja who was working a plainclothes assignment. Somehow a shooting occurred and Jones ended up dead. Raja and the police department initially said that Jones was holding his own gun in his right hand and confronted the officer.
Jones was left handed.
There was also the fact that the roadside assistance company recorded the telephone calls that it got from customers, so there is an audio record of what transpired. And it did not match what Raja said. By November 12, the police department had found enough to realize that it didn’t want to defend Raja any further and fired him. The leader of the local police union expressed his shock at the firing.
The local State’s Attorney almost immediately dropped a felony case where Raja was the primary witness, and not because he was fired. It seems that the defense attorney had discovered that what Raja had reported did not match what was on the squad car video.
And then nothing at all happened for five months. Eventually, first-term State’s Attorney Dave Aronberg decided to present the issue to a grand jury—but not on whether Raja should be charged with a crime. No, all Aronberg wanted the grand jury to do was to determine if the fired officer was justified in shooting Jones.
So the grand jury listened to the evidence. It heard how Raja confronted Jones wearing a t-shirt and ball cap, not the tactical vest that he was instructed to wear if he got out of the van, without his issued duty weapon (he shot Jones with his personal gun), or his police radio. It heard the conversation between the two:
Raja: You good?
Jones: I’m good.
Jones: Yeah, I’m good.
Raja: Get your f**king hands up! Get your f**king hands up!
Jones: Hold on!
Raja: Get your f**king hands up! Drop!
Raja then took three shots, spaced about a second apart, then three more shots. Jones was hit by three shots, two minor hits and a fatal hit to the chest. Raja then called 911 and 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.
The problem with this is that it was a lie. Raja never identified himself, not once.
So the grand jury found that the shooting was not justified. And now Aronberg was in a bad spot. Grand juries always find for the police officer, only they didn’t do that here, and Aronberg had to make the call himself. So he charged Raja with Attempted Murder (for the non-fatal shots) and for Manslaughter by Culpable Negligence (for the fatal shot).
OK, lets get this straight. Raja was actively trying to kill Jones but failed, justifying the Attempted Murder, but the actual fatal shot was due to negligence? Really?
It’s not going to matter, Raja is going to be acquitted. You see, Jones was found dead 64 yards from his vehicle. His pistol was found 24 yards from the vehicle, 40 yards from Jones. Jones was hit three times; in the right arm, in the left elbow, and the chest. If Jones was holding his pistol in his left hand and was hit in his elbow, it would be likely that Jones would drop the gun and run. It is entirely likely that Raja would not notice that the weapon was dropped and would continue to fire at Jones, then striking him in the chest.
He might be convicted, Raja will have to testify to really make his defense case, and the prosecution can shred him on his background, but Raja was a police officer. That means that he is a trained witness. He knows how to testify and how to minimize problems. So if his defense attorney can raise a reasonable doubt, Raja will walk.
That’s a shame, because it is clear that Raja caused the death of Jones and it was entirely unneeded and unnecessary.
Raja should have only approached Jones wearing his tactical vest that identified himself as a police officer. Raja should have verbally identified himself as a police officer. He should have called over a marked unit, for that matter. Instead, he started a confrontation and then shot and killed Jones, without justification.
The only good things that have come out of this is that he was fired, the grand jury found against him, and he was charged by the State’s Attorney. These things have to happen before you will ever get a conviction.