The Florida police officer who shot and killedCorey Jones,a Black motorist who was waiting for a tow truck on the side of a highway last month, has been fired, the city of Palm Beach Gardens said Thursday, and a criminal investigation is ongoing.
Jones, 31, was a well-known drummer for his church band and was returning home from a gig when his car broke down on South Florida’s Interstate 95 at around 3 a.m. on October 18. While he waited in his car for roadside assistance to arrive, the police officer, Nouman Raja, pulled up in an unmarked van and not wearing a police uniform.
Immediately following the incident, the police department described the events in a now-deleted post on the department’s Facebook page: “As the officer exited his vehicle, he was suddenly confronted by an armed subject. As a result of the confrontation, the officer discharged his firearm, resulting in the death of the subject.”
However,Raja’s van did not have a dashboard camera and the police department’s officers do not wear body cameras. Some details of the incident have revealed that Raja fired six shots and hit Jones three times, and his body was found 80 to 100 feet from his car. In fact, according to NBC 6 Miami,phone records show that Jones was shot while he was on the phone with AT&T’s roadside assistance.
Jones did have a gun in his possession, but it was purchased legally, according to police. Jones’ family has said Jones had a gun to protect himself because he often carried expensive musical instruments and equipment, and he may have thought to defend himself when Raja out of uniform and in a suspicious van approached him on the side of the road.Lawyers for Jones’ family also have said Raja never identified himself as a police officer nor displayed his badge before shooting Jones.
Raja, 38, was hired in April and was still on a probationary period in which he could be fired for any reason, the city said. Hehad been on administrative leave since the shooting.
“The City of Palm Beach Gardens has been cautiously and methodically considering the employment status of Officer Nouman Raja,” it said in a statement. “Therefore, Officer Raja, a probationary employee with the City, has been terminated from employment effective Wednesday, November 11, 2015 at 5:00 p.m.”
The city added that “The independent criminal investigation … is ongoing and the city will continue to cooperate with all agencies involved,” which includes the FBI.
“While we are pleased that the city of Palm Beach Gardens has terminated the employment of the officer who gunned down Corey Jones, we maintain that the officer in question also must be held criminally liable for his reckless actions that night,” the family said in a statement following the city’s announcement. “Our family remains hopeful that the outside agencies brought in to investigate Corey’s killing will soon begin to yield factual information about how and why this officer acted so callously.”
Shortly after the shooting, Palm Beach Gardens Police Chief Stephen Stepp said that Raja, who was in his sixth month with the department, had been conducting surveillance on suspected burglaries.
However, according toYahoo News, Raja was not qualified to conduct undercover surveillance as a new hire on probation, citing the department’s writtenproceduresrequiring that surveillance operations be carried out by tactical officers or detectives.
A Florida lawmaker from Broward County on Thursday renewed his call for more transparency and accountability measures from law enforcement, including the use of dashboard and/or body camera footage neither of which is available in Jones’ death.
“Those of us who have sought justice in this case still have been shortchanged of meaningful information,” Rep. Shevrin Jones, D-West Park, said in a statement. “Even with the firing, we don’t know the details of how the police department reached this decision. Our quest for justice begins with transparency and facts. This is just the beginning. We have a long way to go until we get justice for Corey Jones.”
Jones’s family’s attorney, Benjamin Crump, said last month the family believes “Corey went to his grave not knowing if this was a real cop or not.”