(PALM BEACH, Fla.) — The former Palm Beach Gardens Police Department officer who fatally shot 31-year-old musician Corey Jones on a Florida highway in October has been arrested, according to authorities.
A grand jury found that Nouman Raja’s use of force was not justified, said Dave Aronberg, state attorney for the 15th Judicial Circuit, which covers all of Palm Beach County.
Raja subsequently faces two felony charges: one count of manslaughter by culpable negligence, punishable by up to 15 years in prison, and one count of attempted first-degree murder with a firearm, punishable by up to life in prison, Aronberg said.
Raja, 32, was arrested and taken into custody today, Aronberg said. He could not comment further since the case is now pending.
In the early morning hours of Oct. 18, Jones was stranded with car troubles on I-95 in Palm Beach Gardens when Raja pulled up around 3:15 a.m. to “investigate what he believed to be an abandoned vehicle,” according to police.
When Raja exited the vehicle, he was confronted by an armed subject, police said in a statement. Raja shot Jones “as a result of the confrontation,” police said, killing him.
Phone records showed that Jones had requested roadside assistance at 1:44 a.m., according to a probable cause affidavit released by Aronberg’s office today. Almost an hour later, after the technician was unable to get his vehicle started, Jones told a bandmate that he was unwilling to leave the car for fear that his drum equipment may be stolen, the affidavit states. His bandmate drove away at 2:45 a.m. and was the last person to see Jones alive before Raja arrived on the scene.
Jones was on another call with roadside assistance when Raja arrived, and the exchange was recorded on the line, the affidavit states. After asking Jones if he was “good” more than once, Raja told him to get his “[expletive] hands up” twice before firing three gunshots in rapid succession, according to the affidavit. The call center operator that Jones was on the phone with could then be heard saying, “Oh my gosh!” while the sounds of pinging car door chimes rang in the background.
Raja was on duty at the time but was wearing sneakers, jeans, a tan T-shirt and tan baseball cap with the letters “CAT” stitched in red, according to the affidavit. He was driving a white Ford cargo van, the affidavit says. There had been a problem with late-night car burglaries in the area, and Raja was assigned to conduct surveillance on large parking lots that night, his immediate supervisor told investigators.
Raja was told to wear his tactical vest with police markings on it while he worked on the assignment “for safety reasons,” his supervisor said, according to the affidavit. Raja was not wearing the vest when he exited his car, the affidavit states.
About 33 seconds after the shooting, Raja used his personal cell phone to call 911, according to the affidavit. As the call connected, but before the operator could answer, Raja could be heard yelling “drop that [expletive] gun right now!” Raja then gave his location and said he had shot a person, requesting fire-rescue. He said he “lost contact” with the the person, which means he did not know where the person was located, according to the affidavit.
Raja described the person as a “black male wearing all black, dreads,” according to the affidavit. Raja said that he gave him commands after identifying himself, and that the man turned and pointed the gun at him and then started running.
Raja told the dispatcher he shot the man and that he had been “hit,” meaning shot “at least three to four times,” according to the affidavit.
Raja was placed on paid administrative leave following the shooting. He was eventually fired from the Palm Beach Gardens Police Department.
Additional officers then responded to the scene and found Jones’ body about 192 feet from the back of his car. A handgun was not found near Jones’ body, but instead about 72 feet from the rear of Jones’ vehicle, the affidavit says. He had purchased the gun three days before the shooting, and the box it was purchased in was found inside the car, police said.
Raja fired six shots at Jones with his personal Glock .40 caliber pistol, the affidavit states, because his department-issued firearm was in its holster inside the van.
Palm Beach County Medical Examiner Gertrude Juste ruled Jones’ death a homicide caused by a gunshot wound to his chest, according to the affidavit.
Jones was a drummer for a local reggae band called the “Future Prezidents,” according to the affidavit.
Raja has not yet entered a plea to the charges he faces. It is not clear whether he has obtained a lawyer.
In a statement, Jones’ family said they felt “relieved” that Raja is facing criminal charges in Jones’ death, calling Jones a “wonderful soul.” “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.”
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