Nouman Raja, the Palm Beach Gardens police officer who shot and killed local musician Corey Jones, has been arrested and charged with attempted first-degree murder with a firearm as well as manslaughter, Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg said in a press conference yesterday.
"The grand jury today found that the use of force by Mr. Raja was unjustified," Aronberg said. Raja could face life in prison. He was arrested yesterday and is expected in court this morning for a first appearance.
In April, Aronberg made the controversial decision to put the case before a grand jury, rather than indicting Raja himself.
"If the officer cooperates and answers all questions, we then conduct an independent investigation of the shooting and there is the potential for a close-out memorandum to be issued and no charges being filed," Aronberg said during the April press conference. "If unresolved issues exist and a close-out memorandum cannot be issued, then our protocol is to take the matter to a grand jury."
At the time, the Jones family said it was unhappy with Aronberg's decision. Grand juries have been historically wary to indict cops after they kill people. Famously, it was a Missouri grand jury's decision to let former police officer Darren Wilson go scot-free that sparked the 2014 riots in Ferguson, Missouri.
But Raja's indictment shows that public opinion may, slowly, be changing. In another high-profile South Florida case, Oakland Park resident Jermaine McBean's death at the hands of Broward Sheriff Office Deputy Peter Peraza also led to a grand-jury indictment.
Palm Beach Post reporter Sarah Peters posted the City of Palm Beach Gardens' statement to Twitter yesterday:
The Jones family, meanwhile, issued this statement:
"We were relieved to learn that officer Nouman Raja, who senselessly killed Corey Jones, was arrested earlier today and will face charges for his reckless act," the family wrote. "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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Jones was a prominent drummer in South Florida. After his car got stuck by the exit ramp near the PGA Boulevard exit on I-95 on October 18, Jones called AT&T roadside assistance for help at around 2:30 in the morning.
According to documents released today, Raja — who was dressed in plainclothes — did not identify himself when he approached Jones' car and eventually killed Jones. Raja has since been fired from the Palm Beach Gardens police force.
According to the Palm Beach Post, an audio recording of the shooting was what convinced the jury to charge Raja:
Corey Jones made as many as five calls to an AT&T number for roadside assistance and spent 26 minutes listening to music before his calls were finally answered, according to police documents. Jones made the first call at 2:09 a.m. His final call was answered at 3:12 a.m. by an AT&T roadside assistance operator. There was no background noise during the first two minutes of the recorded call, as Jones calmly explained to the operator the problems with his vehicle.
Then, door alert chimes can be heard, indicating Jones opened the door with the keys in the ignition. The recording picked up a discussion between Raja and Jones.
Corey Jones: “Huh?’
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) hand up! Drop!”
Raja fired three shots immediately after he uttered the word “drop.”