Prosecutors Wednesday charged a former Florida police officer with manslaughter and attempted murder in the fatal shooting of a black musician whose car had broken down on the side of a highway.
Former Palm Beach Gardens Officer Nouman Raja, 38, was arrested for the Oct. 18, 2015, shooting of 31- year-old Corey Jones. Prosecutors, in court records viewed by the Associated Press, say Raja misled investigators and lied to the 911 operator to make it appear that he tried to get Jones to put down his licensed firearm before Raja fired the fatal shots. Authorities say a recording of the incident reveals that Raja, who was not in uniform at the time of the incident, did not identify himself as a police officer before drawing his weapon.
“While we understand that nothing can bring back our son, brother and friend, this arrest sends a message that this conduct will not be tolerated from members of law enforcement,” Jones’ family said in a statement after the arrest was announced.
On Oct. 18, 2015, Jones, a drummer, was returning from a show with his band when his car broke down. According to CNN, Jones was on the phone with AT&T roadside assistance when Raja, who was working an auto-burglary police detail nearby, drove up in an unmarked police van. Raja, according to authorities, never turned on his police lights and approached Jones’ car wearing “a tan T-shirt, jeans, sneakers and a baseball cap,” AP reports.
As Raja approached Jones’ car, the musician exited the vehicle. A recording of Raja and Jones’ exchange was captured during the call with the roadside-assistance operator, the Palm Beach Post reports:
Officer Nouman Raja: “You good?”
Jones: “I’m good.”
Jones: “Yeah, I’m good.”
Raja: “Get your [expletive] hands up! Get your [expletive] hands up!”
Jones: “Hold on!”
Raja: “Get your [expletive] hands up! Drop!”
Three shots ring out seconds later, according to the Palm Beach Post.
“A reasonable person can only assume the thoughts and concerns Corey Jones was experiencing as he saw the van approaching him at that hour of the morning,” prosecutors wrote in the charging documents, AP reports. “At no time during the recording did Raja say he was a police officer.”
Raja’s supervisor testified to the grand jury that the officer had been instructed to wear his police vest while on surveillance. Raja’s vest was found in the back of Raja’s unmarked van, CNN reports.
After the shooting, Raja used his personal cellphone to call police. During the call, Raja yelled aloud for someone to drop the gun, authorities say. However, the recording indicates that the last shot was fired 33 seconds before Raja can be heard talking with the 911 operator, the Palm Beach Post reports.
If Raja is found guilty, he could face life in prison.