It was the tapes, those of the phone calls and the interviews with the investigators, that ultimately prompted Palm Beach County state attorney’s office to file charges of manslaughter against former Palm Beach Gardens officer Norman Raja. On Tuesday, the state attorney’s office thousands of documents, photos, and video and audio recordings to Raja’s attorneys and the public as they accused him of not identifying himself as a police officer when he shot and killed a black drummer whose car had broken down on the interstate.
CBS News reported that then officer Nouman Raja’s post-incident statements did not mesh with recordings made while the incident was ongoing. This led to prosecutors initially charging Raja with manslaughter and attempted murder in the shooting homicide of 31-year-old Corey Jones, who was sitting in his broken down SUV in the early morning hours at an Interstate 95 off-ramp when Raja approached him. Jones had been on his way home from a late performance.
Records indicate that Raja, who is of South Asian descent, was working on car burglaries at the time, drove his unmarked white van the wrong way up the ramp. It was not reported why the officer did this. Jones was talking to a tow truck dispatcher at the time.
Photos from the incident show that Raja had a police tactical vest in his van but had chosen not to wear it, according to WPEC-TV in West Palm Beach. Wearing just a t-shirt and jeans, he approached Jones in the SUV. Prosecutors, in presenting, said that Jones had no way of knowing Raja was a police officer, because he was not displaying any kind of proper identification.
A door chime is heard as Jones apparently opened the door to the SUV. Jones then left the vehicle, telling Raja, “No. I’m good. Yeah, I’m good.”
When Raja asked, “Really?,” Jones can be heard answering, “Yeah.”
Suddenly Raja can be heard yelling, telling Jones to raise his hands, cursing. Jones can be heard, saying, “Hold on. Hold on.” Raja, again cursing, told Jones to raise his hands. Two shots are then fired.
Jones ran. As he made his way down an embankment, Raja fired several shots after him, killing him. Jones’ body was found about 125 feet from his SUV. A gun belonging to him was found about 75 feet from the SUV.
Jones, who also worked as a housing department inspector, had a concealed carry permit to for the weapon. His family said he had purchased the weapon to protect his expensive drum equipment.
Raja and his attorneys are pleading not guilty to the manslaughter charge. They are claiming, along with the police union, that the Jones shooting was justified because he [Jones] was armed.
Raja told investigators four hours after the shooting that Jones had surprised him at first, because he initially thought the SUV was empty. “The door swung open and, uh, this guy jumps outside immediately,” Raja voluntarily told Palm Beach County sheriff’s detective Kenny Smith. “He got out of the van and then he’s like, ‘I’m OK, I’m OK man.’ And at which point I said, ‘Hey, man, police, can I help you?’ And the second I said police, he jumped back and I clearly remember him drawing and… pointing a gun at me.”
He then told Smith that he had ordered Jones to drop his weapon. When he didn’t, he shot at him.
He then said he called 911 as he chased Jones. He said he shot at Jones again only after Jones turned back toward him with the gun.
But the recording of the 911 call does not contain any sounds of a gun firing.
According to NBC News, Nouman Raja was fired shortly after the incident.
Corey Jones’ family named Raja and the Palm Beach Gardens police force in a “wrongful death” lawsuit in July. According to the Palm Beach Post, the family contends that Raja used unnecessary deadly force during the incident. The lawsuit did not list a specific monetary demand for damages for the shooting, just that it would be in excess of $15,000, which is the minimum amount necessary to file lawsuits in circuit courts in Florida.
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