Crime

Florida Musician Killed By Plainclothes Cop Never Fired Gun, Lawyer Says

Corey Jones, 31, a professional drummer, is shown in this photo released by Florida State University National Black Alumni, Inc. Photo from REUTERS

A Florida musician who was shot and killed by a plainclothes police officer after his car broke down on a highway exit ramp never fired the handgun he was carrying and was running away at one point, lawyers for the dead man's family said on Oct. 22.

Corey Jones, a 31-year-old black drummer, was waiting for a tow truck around 3 a.m. on Oct. 18 when he was approached by Nouman Raja, who was driving an unmarked van, the lawyers told a news conference on the steps of the Palm Beach County courthouse.

Police say there was a confrontation with Jones, who was carrying a recently purchased handgun, that ended with Jones being shot and killed by Raja, who was on duty investigating a burglary.

The shooting is the latest in a string of fatal incidents involving police and black men across the United States that have sparked outrage and fueled questions about excessive use of force by officers.

Raja, 38, fired six bullets, hitting Jones three times, one of the lawyers, Benjamin Crump, told reporters after meeting with the state attorney investigating the incident.

"Corey Jones never fired his weapon ... it's very troubling on many, many levels," he said, citing preliminary information provided to the family by the state attorney's office.

Jones was driving home to Boynton Beach after a gig with the band Future Prezidents when his car broke down, his family said. Crump said Raja, an officer of Asian heritage, emerged from a van with tinted windows and never identified himself by showing his badge.

"We believe Corey went to his grave without knowing whether this was a real cop or not," said Crump.

Jones was "running away at some point," he added, though there was no evidence that he was shot in the back. The fatal bullet struck him in the side and lodged in his upper body.

Jones' body was found 80 to 100 feet (24 to 30 meters) from his car, and his gun was found on the ground between the car and his body, the lawyer said.

The death is being investigated by the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office as well as the state attorney, with the support of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Jones' family described him as a responsible gun owner with the proper permits who armed himself to protect expensive drum equipment and cash payments from performances. He often drove home late at night.

"He would not ever, ever, ever ... pull a gun on a police [officer]," said his older brother, C.J. Jones, a former National Football League wide receiver.

His father, Clinton Jones Sr, barely unable to speak with emotion, stammered, "I need to know why my son is gone today."

Hundreds of people gathered outside Palm Beach Gardens City Hall on Oct. 22 for a peaceful rally in support of the Jones family, some holding "Black Lives Matter" posters.

Raja, who was not injured, has been placed on routine administrative leave with pay while the case is investigated.

Raja joined the Palm Beach Gardens police in April and previously worked for seven years at the police department in Atlantis, a small town south of Palm Beach.

He received a written warning in 2011 after he had to be told to halt a police chase, according to official documents released by Palm Beach Gardens police.

He was also threatened with suspension in 2013 by the Atlantis police department after supervisors found unfiled paperwork and prescription drugs from a narcotics case in Raja’s patrol vehicle, local media reported.

Police declined to comment due to the ongoing investigation. Raja gave no comment on Oct. 21 when approached by a local TV news crew.

(Reporting by Zachary Fagenson in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.; Writing by David Adams; Editing by Matthew Lewis and Dan Grebler)

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