Palm Beach News

Corey Jones' Friend: Musicians Always Face Danger on the the Road

When Shaka Pace heard about the death of Corey Jones, the 31-year-old musician gunned down last Sunday by a plainclothes Palm Beach Gardens Police officer on an I-95 exit ramp, one thought jumped in his head: that could have been any of us.

Pace was not thinking specifically of the wave of questionable police shootings involving young black men that has come to dominate the national conversation. He was thinking of South Florida musicians. Pace, a bassist, had known and played with Corey Jones for more than a decade. Like other regular gigging talent in the region, Pace knows the threats waiting for musicians on any given night after work – regular risks that have led many guys like Pace and Jones to get their conceal-and-carry handgun permits.

“People don’t understand what we have to deal with when we’re on the road at 3 or 4 in the morning,” Pace explains. “I have to travel for work, and you are getting off at 2 or 3 in the morning. I’ve got expensive gear, so I have to worry about somebody robbing me.”

Questions are still fogging up what exactly happened to Jones. So far, the Palm Beach Gardens PD has confirmed that Nouman Raja approached Jones’ broken-down car around 3 a.m. on Sunday. The drummer was returning from a gig with his band Future Prezidents in Jupiter when he experience car trouble. Raja was in plainclothes, in an unmarked van. He fired six shots, striking Jones three times, killing him. Jones’ gun was found at the scene.

Pace first met the young drummer over a decade ago at a church function. “Our musician family is pretty big, but it’s also small. Everyone is friends of friends of friends. But we all try to stick together,” he says.

Jones was a natural drummer, Pace explains. “That was his thing. But he was also a kind person, real neat, quiet. A lot of times, you wouldn’t know Corey was in the room; he was just that kind of person. But he had a beautiful spirit.”

All musicians know about the threats out there after gigs, he explains. Typically, when a gig is out, the only people on the road are police, people up to no good, and musicians carrying cash and expensive equipment. Your adrenaline and senses are jacked.

“When I’m done, I’m pretty much strapping back up once I get outside and I get to my vehicle,” he says. “Those are the times when a person gets robbed, leaving or coming to a place where you’re working at.”

Pace has been robbed himself after a gig, an experience that pushed him to get his carry license. He also has had an experience that has eerie echoes of what possibly could have gone down with Jones.

In 2007, while Pace was playing poker with some friends at a table outside his Hallandale Beach home, a white Mitsubishi Galant slow-rolled past his house. “My neighborhood isn’t so safe at night, he explains. “If you see something like that in my neighborhood, that’s telling me one thing: Somebody’s getting ready to start shooting, or somebody is trying to do something illegal.”

Pace shouted for the drivers to ID themselves. He couldn’t see the driver through the car tint. He pulled out his weapon. The car pulled out.

Moments later, dozens of cars raced to the house, Pace says. Plainclothes police officers – members of ICE task force patrolling the area – stormed the house. Pace was arrested and charged with aggravated assault with a firearm on law enforcement – a serious felony charge. The case was eventually tossed. But the lesson has stayed with Pace, particularly in light of his friend’s death: Situations escalate quickly. 
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Kyle Swenson
Contact: Kyle Swenson