A Florida police officer is facing life in prison after a jury found him guilty of shooting and killing a black man, marking the first time in 30 years a Florida police officer has been convicted for a civilian’s death.
At 9:14 a.m. on Thursday morning, a West Palm Beach, Fla., jury convicted former Palm Beach Gardens police officer Nouman Raja for manslaughter with a firearm and first degree attempted murder. The 41-year-old was standing trial for the 2015 death of Corey Jones, a 31-year-old black musician.
According to court documents, On Oct. 18, Jones’ SUV broke down on an off-ramp in South Florida. While Jones was talking to an operator for a tow truck, Raja pulled up in an unmarked car, wearing no police identification and blocked Jones truck. Because Jones was on a recorded line, jurors could hear that Raja never identified himself as a police officer. Fearing that he was about to be robbed, Jones pulled out a licensed gun.
Nouman Raja opened fire.
Even though Jones took off running and Raja could plainly see that Jones had thrown his gun away, 6.3 seconds later, Raja opened fire again. Then, he lied to his fellow officers about it, claiming that “stress was fogging his memory.”
Raja based his defense on two oft-used police excuses, NBC News reports:
Raja’s attorneys argue he identified himself and feared for his life when Jones pulled his gun. They argued that Raja should be protected under the stand your ground law, which says anyone with a legitimate fear of imminent danger can use lethal force. The law also says it is up to prosecutors to prove the person’s fear was lacking or unreasonable. One exception is that the person cannot be the initial aggressor.
It did not work.
And all it took to convict Raja was for a man to die, the call to have been coincidentally recorded, public outcry, a four-year intermission between the killing and the trial, the ghost of Trayvon Martin, and 30 years of Florida cops shooting black people and getting away with it.
The last time a Florida officer was convicted was in 1989 when Miami police officer William Lozano shot a black man whom Lozano said tried to hit him with a motorcycle. The killing caused three days of rioting in Miami.
Raja, who is of South Asian descent, was remanded into police custody immediately after the trial. He faces life in prison.