Family: Man shot by cop in Palm Beach County was a ‘good person’

Corey Jones, who was shot and killed early Sunday morning by a plain-clothes Palm Beach Gardens police officer.
Corey Jones, who was shot and killed early Sunday morning by a plain-clothes Palm Beach Gardens police officer.

For eight years, Corey Jones showed up at work each day at the Delray Beach Housing Authority, inspecting homes and apartments to make sure they were fit for low-income families.

He checked that the apartments were safe, with plumbing, heat and power. He acted as a go-between for landlords and tenants. Outside of work, he played drums in a band.

But this week, residents of the 40 units he tended to are grieving the death of Jones, who was shot and killed in an encounter with a police officer early Sunday. The shooting, the latest of an African-American at the hands of the police, is being investigated by the Palm Beach County sheriff.

“He would make a repair in the unit himself if there was something that needed to be done,” his supervisor, Shirley Erazo, said in a telephone interview. “He was always willing to make things right.”

Early Sunday, Jones, 31, was on his way home from playing with his band, Future Prezidents, when his car broke down on an exit ramp of Interstate 95, family members told WPBF television station.

It was around 3:15 a.m., according to an account provided by the Palm Beach Gardens Police Department. An officer, Nouman Raja, stopped to investigate what he thought was an abandoned vehicle on the darkened ramp at PGA Boulevard. The officer was on duty in plain clothes and in an unmarked police vehicle. The statement said that as Raja left his vehicle, “he was suddenly confronted by an armed subject.”

That was Jones.

Palm Beach Gardens Police Chief Stephen Stepp, speaking at a news conference Tuesday afternoon, said Raja was working a surveillance detail relating to recent burglaries around the city.

The statement did not define what Jones was “armed” with, and it did not give further details. The statement did not say whether Raja had his weapon drawn when he approached the vehicle or whether he identified himself as a police officer. Also not clear is whether the two men exchanged any words.

A police spokeswoman, Ellen Lovejoy, said Jones had a firearm, and Jones’ aunt, Serena Banks, told The Palm Beach Post that she believed that he had a gun permit and owned a gun. Stepp said sheriff’s investigators found a gun on the ground near Jones’ car and a gun box inside the car.

Calling the interaction between the two men a “confrontation,” the statement then said the officer “discharged his firearm resulting in the death” of Jones. It did not say what prompted the officer to fire.

Raja was put on administrative leave, the statement said, a routine step taken after an officer uses his handgun.

On Tuesday, the president of the Palm Beach Gardens police union, John Kazanjian, told the WPTV television station that officers were receiving death threats and accused the department of not being transparent about the shooting.

“You don’t want another Ferguson,” he said, referring to the unrest that broke out over the police killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown in August 2014 by a police officer in the St. Louis suburb. “They need to get out there and address the public.”

Late on Monday, family and friends gathered at Bible Church of God in Boynton Beach, where Jones was a drummer. His family is part of the congregation.

“For this to happen to a good person — he is not a thug. He is not what everybody would imagine a black man to be in this judgmental system that we have,” Erica Gordon, a member of the Boynton United Community Choir, said at the vigil, according to a video interview with The Palm Beach Post. “He is a good person, and this should have never happened to him.”

This report included information from the Sun-Sentinel