In a time where the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man is more likely to result in protests than an indictment, the case of Corey Jones goes off-script.
The South Florida man was killed by an on-duty police officer on Oct. 18. This week, former officer Nouman Raja is home after bonding out of jail and pleading not guilty to charges of manslaughter and attempted first-degree murder.
In charging documents, prosecutors said that Raja did not announce himself as a police officer, that he fired at Jones even after Jones threw his weapon down and ran away, and that he also appeared to lie to 911 operators.
What began as car problems in the wee hours of a Sunday morning turned fatal within minutes of Raja’s arrival.
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Corey Jones, a musician and property manager in Delray Beach, was driving home from a late-night gig in Jupiter with his reggae band, Future Prezidents, when his white van broke down.
Stranded on the side of I-95, the 31-year-old man called a band mate and the Florida Highway Patrol for help. The breakdown was too complicated for the road ranger and the band mate to fix, and Jones didn’t want to leave his expensive drum set alone, so the road ranger who came to help and his band mate left around 2 a.m.
Jones spent the next 45 minutes trying to reach AT&T roadside assistance, according to prosecutors. One of his calls had him on hold for almost a half hour before an operator answered at 3:12 a.m. The next few minutes of the call were recorded, investigators allege, starting with Jones answering simple questions about his car and ending with his death at Raja’s hands.
Prosecutors said the routine call changed when Jones’ car door chimes started sounding, meaning his car door was opened while his keys were in the ignition.
Raja, an on-duty Palm Beach Gardens police officer, had driven up the ramp the wrong way in an unmarked car and parked at an angle, blocking Jones’ disabled vehicle.
Raja had been on surveillance patrol that night after a string of auto burglaries. His supervising sergeant told prosecutors that Raja had been told to wear a police-marked tactical vest and “identify yourself as a police officer.” Prosecutors said his vest and police radio were on the floorboard of his car during the shooting.
Ten seconds after the pinging began, investigators said the call recorded this exchange between Jones and Raja:
Raja: “You good?”
Jones: “I’m good.”
Raja: “Get your f-----g hands up! Get your f-----g hands up!”
Jones: “Hold on!”
Raja: “Get your f-----g hands up! Drop!”
Then came three gunshots in two seconds. The call center operator said “Oh my gosh!” and all that’s audible for the next 10 seconds are the pinging of the door chimes. Then came three more shots.
“The second volley was fired more deliberately, one shot per second,” the report read.
Raja used his personal cell phone to call 911, prosecutors said, 33 seconds after the final shot was fired. They allege he shouted “Drop that f-----g gun right now!” as the call connected, even though the autopsy report shows Jones would have already been dead after a shot hit his heart and lungs. Raja told the operator he shot someone at least three or four times and didn’t know where he went, prosecutors said.
He allegedly told the operator it was a “black male wearing all black, dreads, had a silver handgun in his right hand. I came out, I saw him coming with the handgun. I gave him commands. I identified myself and he turned, pointed the gun at me, and started running. I shot him. [sic].”
Police found Jones’ body 200 feet away from his car and a chrome .380 handgun about 70 feet from Jones’ car. The safety was on and no shots had been fired. Jones had just made the final payment on his gun that week, said his cousin, Breante Allen.
Jones, whom family members describe as so gentle he wouldn’t even kill the fish he caught, bought the gun for security because he collected rent from tenants late at night. Allen said his other motivation was the nine people shot to death at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, in June. Jones’ family runs The Bible Church of God in Boynton Beach.
“That’s what triggered him,” Allen said. “He asked, ‘What if someone tried to do that to my church? My family?’”
The months after the shooting were filled with what has become a familiar sight in police-involved shootings — a grieving family, a backlash against the officer and a call for justice. It follows the pattern set by high-profile cases like Michael Brown Jr., of Ferguson, Missouri; Tamir Rice, of Cleveland; and Walter Scott, of North Charleston, South Carolina.
But unlike the men, and boy, before him, Jones was armed. The officer was in plain clothes. And, there’s a transcript.
The outside recording helped the Scott case, where chilling bystander video of 50-year-old Scott brought the details of the shooting to the public vividly. The footage appears to show Scott running from the traffic stop and the officer shooting him in the back five times. The officer, Michael Slager, said that Scott had stolen his stun gun.
Like Raja, Slager was charged and pleaded not guilty.
There was no indictment in the case of Tamir, a 12-year-old playing with a toy gun in a public park in 2014 when someone called 911 about a man with a gun. An officer fatally shot him within seconds of arriving at the park. Nor was there an indictment in the most infamous case of all — Michael Brown Jr. The unarmed teen was fatally shot by a white police officer. The grand jury’s decision not to indict the officer sparked riots and protests nationwide.
This article was supplemented with reporting from the AP.