Crime

Former Fla. police officer charged in shooting of stranded motorist

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Former Palm Beach Gardens Police Officer Nouman Raja has been arrested on charges of manslaughter and attempted murder in last year's shooting of stranded motorist Corey Jones.

The Jones shooting prompted a national outcry at a time when police use of force across the country was drawing scrutiny. State Attorney Dave Aronberg on Wednesday announced that a grand jury found the shooting "unjustified."

Aronberg said because of the grand jury's finding, the prosecutors' office has charged Raja with one count of manslaughter by culpable negligence, a second-degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison; and one count of attempted first-degree murder with a firearm, a felony punishable by up to life in prison.

"We have notified representatives of the Corey Jones family about the grand jury's decision and our subsequent charges," Aronberg said.

Because it's now a pending criminal matter, Aronberg said he wasn't permitted to discuss the case further. "Now we move forward to the next stage of this matter," Aronberg said.

Jones, from Boynton Beach, was waiting with his broken-down SUV along Interstate 95 on Oct. 18 when he was shot and killed by Raja, who at the time was a Palm Beach Gardens police officer.

Raja, 38, was not wearing a police uniform and was driving an unmarked police van when he stopped to investigate a possible abandoned car, according to police.

Jones was on his cellphone with a roadside assistance operator when Raja approached, and their initial interaction was recorded, according to the State Attorney's Office findings.

According to the transcript of the call, Jones is first heard saying, "Huh?"

"You good?" Raja asked.

"I'm good," Jones said.

"Really?" Raja responded.

"Yeah; I'm good," Jones said.

"Really?" Raja replied.

"Yeah," Jones said.

"Get your (expletive) hands up! Get your (expletive) hands up!" Raja said.

"Hold on!" Jones said.

"Get your (expletive) hands up! Drop!" Raja said.

After saying, "drop," Raja fired three gunshots within two seconds. After about 10 seconds, Raja fired three more shots -- this time "more deliberately" with one shot every three seconds, the report said.

"Oh my gosh!" the operator can be heard saying on the recording after the first round of shots And then, "There's gunshots," after the second volley, the report said.

Raja did not identify himself during the shooting, according to the recording, and "there is no question that Jones ran away from Raja," according to the probable cause affidavit filed by the State Attorney's Office.

"There is sufficient evidence and probable cause to conclude Nouman Raja continued to discharge his firearm at Corey Jones after Raja realized Jones no longer possessed a firearm. The intent of discharging his firearm was to kill Corey Jones," according to the State Attorney's findings.

Police say that as Raja approached, Jones had a gun that he was licensed to carry and then Raja opened fire.

Raja fired six shots, hitting Jones three times. Jones' gun had not been fired, according to the State Attorneys' Office.

Raja, who at the time of the shooting had been working for Palm Beach Gardens police for less than a year, was fired in November while still in his probationary period for a new employee.

Attorneys for Jones' family have maintained that Jones likely didn't know that Raja was a police officer.

The city of Palm Beach Gardens released a statement saying it learned Wednesday of the indictment of Raja.

"At this time, we are not aware of what was presented to the grand jury or any specifics of the investigation by three independent entities," the city statement said. "We respect the criminal justice process at every level. We expect to make a more detailed statement on this matter in the future. Our thoughts are with the Jones and Banks families today."

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