Former Florida police officer Nouman Raja was placed under arrest earlier this week after a grand jury indicted him on charges of manslaughter and attempted first-degree murder for the fatal shooting of 31-year-old Corey Jones on October 18, 2015, in Palm Beach Gardens.
Jones, a local musician and drummer, was waiting for assistance with his broken-down vehicle off of Interstate 95 around 3:15 in the morning when Raja approached in an unmarked vehicle and shot him six times after a brief interaction.
Evidence suggests that at no point did Raja, who was out of uniform, identify himself as a police officer to Jones. Jones was armed at the time with a legally-purchased handgun.
Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg, who has been investigating the case over the past several months, said that a grand jury “found that the use of force by Mr. Raja was unjustified,” and that he had been placed under arrest with a $250,000 bail, which has since been posted.
Jones’ case is an integral part of a larger national discussion concerning excessive use of force by law enforcement officials targeted at minorities. Raja is the 12th police officer charged in connection with fatal police shootings that happened in 2015, and the only case where the shooting victim also possessed a weapon.
Raja’s defense claims he thought he was investigating an abandoned vehicle when he was abruptly confronted by Jones, wielding a weapon.
“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,” Jones’ prosecutors said. Vehicle breakdowns are common; around 19% of all belts and 17% of all hoses require maintenance that could otherwise prevent issues.
An audio recording of the interaction between Jones and Raja shows no evidence that Raja identified himself as a police officer before opening fire on Jones. In his call to 911, he told the dispatcher: “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.”
When other officers arrived at the scene, Jones’ body was found 192 feet away from his vehicle, with the handgun lying midway in between.
Congressman Patrick E. Murphy of Florida supported the indictment in a public statement. “Today’s indictment of former officer Nouman Raja demonstrates that no one is above the law,” he said. “It is also an important step forward for our community to begin to heal and to restore trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve.”
Raja remains under house arrest. His arraignment is set for June 14.