The case of plainclothes police officer Nouman Raja, who killed church musician Corey Jones, will go to a grand jury.
BY ANDY REID, KATE JACOBSON
AND RAFAEL OLMEDA
SUN SENTINEL / TNS
WEST PALM BEACH – Prosecutors announced Wednesday that the police shooting of Corey Jones beside his disabled SUV along Interstate 95 last October will go to a grand jury.
Jones, 31, a Delray Beach housing inspector and drummer who lived in Boynton Beach, was shot and killed by plainclothes Palm Beach Gardens police officer Nouman Raja.
The shooting was among the cases of young Black men killed by officers that have sparked a public outcry, helping thrust the incident into the national spotlight.
Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg on Wednesday did not offer many details about his office’s decision to send the case to the grand jury, except to say that he was following a protocol for the handling of police shootings.
A close-out memorandum would have been written and released if a decision had been made not to prosecute, Aronberg said. But unresolved issues remain that need to be decided by the grand jury, which will determine whether to hand up an indictment for Raja.
Some members of Jones’ family, including his grandfather and uncle, said Wednesday they are disappointed Aronberg opted to send the case to a grand jury instead of pushing an indictment forward himself. Jones’ relatives spoke to the news media Wednesday outside Palm Beach Gardens City Hall.
“People know what’s right. People know what’s wrong,” said Jones’ grandfather, Sylvester Banks.
“You know what happened to my grandson. It doesn’t take six months to figure out what’s wrong or right.”
Other relatives of Jones issued a statement through family attorney Benjamin Crump shortly after Aronberg’s announcement.
“While we are pleased to learn that the officer who senselessly killed our Corey will face a grand jury for his reckless act, we understand that nothing can bring back our son, brother and friend,” the statement read. “Our goal now as a family is to ensure that this never happens to another innocent citizen.”
Waiting for a tow
Jones, who was driving home from a performance when his car broke down, was waiting for a tow truck just after 3 a.m. Oct. 18 when Raja approached, according to police.
Raja, 38, was not wearing a police uniform and was driving an unmarked police van when he stopped to investigate a potentially abandoned car, officials said.
Police say that as Raja approached, Jones pulled out a gun that he was licensed to carry and then Raja fired six shots, hitting Jones three times. Jones’ gun had not been fired, according to the State Attorney’s Office.
Attorneys for Jones’ family have maintained that Jones likely didn’t know that Raja was a police officer.
“Shouldn’t have happened”
Also present at the Jones’ family news conference were community leaders and members of the Banks’ Boynton Beach church. Palm Beach Gardens Police Chief Stephen Stepp also spoke at the news conference, saying that while the department has not been involved in any of the investigations into Jones’ death, they support his family.
“The death of Corey Jones shouldn’t have happened that night,” he said. “While we await the facts of the investigation, we are not sitting idle.”
He pointed to new policies put in place late last year banning all undercover officers from engaging in traffic stops without a backup marked car. The department also started using body cameras as a result of Jones’ death.
“We cannot bring Corey back,” Stepp said. “But we can use his death as a catalyst for positive change.”
Raja, who had been working for the Palm Beach Gardens Police Department for less than a year, was fired in November while he was still in his probationary period for a new hire.
The State Attorney’s Office, Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office and FBI have all been involved in the investigation into Jones’ death.
More than 230 potential witnesses from 30 states and three countries were interviewed during the inquiry, Aronberg said.