Nouman Raja was found guilty of killing stranded motorist Corey Jones [photo] during a 3am roadside encounter in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., on Oct 18, 2015
Jones, a well-known musician in the South Florida community, had been on his way home from a Saturday night gig on October 18, 2015 with his band when his car broke down on an Interstate 95 off-ramp.
His brother and a band mate tried to help fix the car, but when they were unsuccessful, Jones waited alone for a tow truck.
Raja, who is of South Asian descent, was in plain clothes when he drove an unmarked van up to Jones’ SUV, which had broken down on a highway off ramp before dawn.
Prosecutors said an audio recording shows Raja never identified himself, making Jones believe he was being robbed.
On Wednesday, prosecutor Brian Fernandes told jurors Raja escalated what should have been a routine interaction at 3.15am on October 18, 2015, into a deadly confrontation.
Raja drove his unmarked van the wrong way up an off ramp, stopping feet from Jones’ broken-down SUV. The prosecutor said Raja never said he was a cop and acted so aggressively that Jones had to think he was about to be carjacked or killed.
No wonder, he said, that Jones, a concealed weapons permit holder, grabbed his gun and ran.
With a photo of Corey Jones on a screen in the courtroom, Chief Assistant State Attorney Adrienne Ellis points at Nouman Raja while delivering her closing arguments on Wednesday in West Palm Beach, Fla
After lying ain his report the Palm Beach Gardens Police Dept. in a statement issued two days later said that officer Nouman Raja was in plainclothes in an unmarked car when he stopped to investigate what he believed to be an abandoned vehicle on an Interstate 95 exit ramp.
“As the officer exited his vehicle, he was suddenly confronted by an armed subject,” the police department said in a statement. “As a result of the confrontation, the officer discharged his firearm, resulting in the death of the subject.”
Expressing disgust at the officer’s actions during her closing on Feb 6, chief Assistant State Attorney Adrienne Ellis said:
‘Corey Jones is a victim. … and that defendant right there made him a victim,’ Fernandes said, pointing at Raja. He called Raja ‘a disgrace’ to other police officers.
‘He chose to violate the most precious rights of a person. With great power comes great responsibility.’
Raja’s attorney, Richard Lubin, painted a different picture. He said that no matter what the officer did, he would not have fired had Jones not pointed a gun at him.
Raja ‘didn’t leave home that night trying to hurt anybody or be involved in a horrible turn of events that began when Corey Jones pulled a gun and pointed it at his head,’ Lubin said.
Jones, he said, ‘couldn’t take that back.’
Victim’s dad Clinton Jones Sr, enters the courtroom for closing argumentsFollowing the deadly shooting Palm Beach Gardens police fired Raja [photo], who was in his employee probation period Defense attorney, Richard Lubin [photo], said his client would not have fired had Jones not pointed a gun at him
Jones, a housing inspector and part-time drummer, had been returning home from a nightclub performance when his vehicle stalled. He had purchased a .38-caliber handgun days earlier to protect his $10,000 drum set, which was in the SUV.
Raja was wearing jeans, a T-shirt and a baseball cap as part of an auto burglary investigation team when he spotted Jones’ SUV.
He thought it was empty, but Jones was inside, talking to a tow truck dispatcher on a recorded line.
Raja’s supervisor testified the officer had been told to don a police vest to identify himself if he approached a civilian. He did not. Fernandes also questioned why Raja didn’t pull out the badge he had in his pocket.
The recording shows Jones saying ‘Huh?’ as his door opens. Raja yells, ‘You good?’ Jones says he is. Raja replies twice, ‘Really?’ with Jones replying ‘Yeah.’
Suddenly, Raja shouts at Jones to raise his hands, using an expletive. Jones replies ‘Hold on!’ and Raja repeats his demand.
Transcript of Corey Jones’ 911 call to roadside help on Oct 18, 2015
Thank you for calling AT&T Roadside Assistance, this is Maddie. May I have your mobile number to better assist you?
561 573 2815.
OK give me one moment to pull up the account. What’s the name on it?
Okay. I see Delray, Delray Beach House.
All right. And what can I do for you tonight?
I need to get a tow. I’m broke down.
Is this mobile number with the vehicle?
What’s wrong with the vehicle?
It won’t start.
Is it a four-wheel drive?
I think it’s two-wheel. I think.
What’s the address of the vehicle location?
I’m off the PGA southbound exit. On 95.
I-95, exit PGA southbound.
OK. Is there any uh, hold on, is there any buildings, landmarks anything like that that I could use to pinpoint your address?
(Car door opens, triggering alarm within).
Corey Jones (to Raja): ‘Huh?
Raja: ‘You good?’
Yeah I’m good.
Get your f****** hands up! Get your f****** hands up!
Hold on! Hold on!
Get your f***** hands up! Drop!
(First three shots are fired)
AT&T Operator: ‘Oh my gosh’.
(Another three shots are fired)
Operator to colleague: ‘Um – there’s gunshots.’
NOUMAN RAJA’S CALL TO 911
Drop that f****** gun right now!
Hey, this is Gardens, this is Gardens Alpha 1. I just got one down. I just shot one person. I’m at the off-ramp right behind Double Tree. Black male.
I’m on the off-ramp. 95 southbound off-ramp off the Double Tree.
I’m, I am not covered in anything right now.
Send me some units, I got one down, I got one man down. I got Fire Rescue, standby.
All right, Raja, you all right?
Yeah man I’m good, I’m good. Drop the gun!
On the off ramp right?
On the off ramp. Get me some units. I’ve lost contact with him. I don’t know where he is.
Alright, you got it buddy. Where’s your radio? Where’s your radio Raj?
My radio is in the van right now, I don’t have it with me that’s why I’m on the phone.
All right, stay on the phone buddy. What we uh, what’s the guy look like?
Black male wearing all black, dreds, had a silver handgun in his right hand.
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.
I’ve lost contact. 65 on the 28 on the, on the SUV? It’s gonna be a Florida 28 of 286 Papa Romeo Hotel 286 PRH.
Don’t know yet. Spike put that out now. All right, it’s an 08 Hyundai Pop 2, 286 Papa Romeo Hotel?
Yeah it’s out of Lake Worth. It’s not stolen or anything. All right, stay on the line. Where’s the van at?
Right on the off-ramp, you’ll see my van right there. I’m actually, I’m walking back to my van. I’m back in my van at the car.
He’s hit at least three to four times.
Alright you got your radio now?
Alright, alright. I got units coming.
Prosecutors believe Jones pulled his gun and ran. Raja fired three shots and Jones ran down an embankment. Prosecutors say he threw his gun, which was found 125 feet from his body, but Raja fired three more times, 10 seconds after the first volley.
Jones was killed by a bullet through his heart. A medical examiner testified that Jones would have dropped feet from where the fatal shot struck him. He also had been shot once in each arm.
Prosecutors say Raja, not knowing of the tow-truck dispatcher recording, tried to deceive investigators.
He told them in a video-recorded interview hours after the shooting he said ‘Police, can I help you?’ as Jones jumped from the SUV. He told investigators Jones then leapt backward and pointed his gun, forcing him to fire.
Raja said Jones ran but turned and again pointed his gun, forcing him to fire the second volley.
Lubin said Jones’ initial ‘Huh?’ shows Raja identified himself — the tape picked up something unintelligible and faint. If officef Raja was trying to deceive investigators, he would have put on his police vest and planted the gun in Jones’ hand before other officers reached the scene.
‘People can make mistakes without it being a lie,’ Lubin said.
Raja is the first Florida police officer in 26 years to be tried for an on-duty killing.