More than seven hundred demonstrators stood sweating in the parking lot of Florida’s Palm Beach Gardens police department Thursday demanding justice for Corey Jones.
Jones is the popular local drummer who was killed by a plainclothes Palm Beach Gardens cop named Nouman Raja, who was driving an unmarked car when he pulled up to Jones, whose van had broken down on an interstate off-ramp at 3 a.m. Sunday.
Police said Jones was armed and “confronted” Raja. But they have not said whether or not Jones pointed his weapon.
Jones, 29, was a legal gun owner with a concealed weapons permit. A college graduate with a clean record who attended church every Sunday.
The large and peaceful crowd of demonstrators asked for justice as family members said they were seeking answers, peace and transparency.
Then family attorney Benjamin Crump dropped the truth bomb.
Crump said that Palm Beach State Attorney Dave Aronberg told him earlier that morning that Raja fired his weapon six times.
And Corey Jones did not fire a single shot.
Nevertheless, the South Florida cop is claiming the musician had pulled a gun, making him fear for his life. It’s unknown if the officer will seek a “Stand Your Ground” hearing if charged for shooting Jones.
But friends and family of Corey Jones, a drummer for a local band called Future Prezidents, said it is completely out of his character to draw his gun on a cop.
However, the Palm Beach Gardens Police Department claim that their officer who was only hired six months ago was only trying to investigate an abandoned car when “he was suddenly confronted by an armed subject,” which was when he opened fire and killed Jones.
Raja was in plainclothes and driving an unmarked car, so police originally claimed that perhaps Jones pulled a gun on him, not realizing he was a cop.
The 38-year-old was hired by the Palm Beach Gardens Police Department in April, became a police officer in 2008 when he was hired by the Atlantis Police Department, only ten miles south of Palm Beach Beach Gardens.
Despite assertions from Palm Beach Gardens Police Chief Stephen Stepp had never been disciplined in is prior job, we are now seeing reports that confirm he was disciplined several times, including for a “serious breach of security” as well as for “negligent mishandling of evidence,” including prescription pills he confiscated from a woman, but never bothered to report or turn in.
The type of pills are not mentioned in the report but it was a “narcotics case.” The pills were found in Raja’s patrol car almost two weeks after he had confiscated them. The report say he was “reprimanded” over the incident.
He was also reprimanded for engaging in a pursuit “causing pedestrians to jump out the way” because the driver had an expired tag, which was against policy because he already knew the identification of the driver and it was not a serious violation.
And while the Palm Beach Gardens Police Department has been slow to release information, sources from within the department have been leaking details to Jose Lambiet, a Palm Beach County journalist who runs Gossip Extra.
Earlier this week, Lambiet reported that not only was Raja in plainclothes and driving an unmarked car, he had left his badge in the car when he shot Jones.
He had also left his post at the nearby Double Tree Hotel where he was supposed to be staking out potential car thieves. The source told Lambiet that he was not allowed to leave that post unless he received permission from a supervisor, which he did not receive.
While working for the Atlantis Police Department, Raja was mostly based at the JFK Medical Center where he was known to be quick to taser mental patients.
He was also known to walk around with knives strapped to his leg, which you can see in a photo leaked to Lambiet.
Raja has also been besieged by financial problems, according to Lambiet.
Jones, on the other hand, preferred drumsticks over knives, and only carried a gun because he worked late nights as a musician.
During Thursday’s protest, Jones’ grandfather, Pastor Sylvester Banks Sr., gave a closing sermon that brought tears to the eyes of the crowd. He began by slowly explaining the way he taught his 14 children to abide the law, speaking eloquently but plainly, only in the way a pastor with 57 years of experience can convey.
He said that if one of his children came to the family after having committed a crime and asked family members for help to cover it up, then the family itself would be just as guilty.
The parallelisms to the Palm Beach Gardens police stonewalling tactics were unmistakeable.
But the preacher’s ultimate message to Raja was one most associated with Catholic dogma: “Confess your sins.”
But as usual, police are remaining silent.
PINAC publisher Carlos Miller contributed to this report.