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Friends of Corey Jones Remember 'A Gentleman, Patient Person'

by Natalie Johnson /

Corey Jones sat in his car Sunday morning at around 2:30, on the off-ramp of I-95 southbound and PGA Boulevard in Palm Beach, Fla, just trying to get home.

The well-known, local drummer was having car trouble and he needed to get to bed so he could get up early to play in church as he usually did on Sundays.

Jones was on his way from a reggae gig at Corner’s Ocean Bar and Grill in Jupiter with his band, Future Prezidents.

According to The Washington Post, the 31-year-old called his band mate, Matthew Huntsberger and they met at the exit ramp and filled his engine with oil, but it didn’t seem to help. Huntsberger said that they called roadside assistance and he left as Jones waited for the tow truck.

By 3:15 a.m., Corey Jones was dead. He had been fatally shot by Palm Beach Gardens Police Department Officer Nouman Raja, who was surveying the area for burglaries, working in plain-clothes and driving an unmarked cruiser.

Police Chief Stephen Stepp said Officer Raja was "suddenly confronted by an armed subject."

The Palm Beach County Sheriff's office will conduct an independent investigation.

 Police in Florida launched an independent investigation after a plainclothes police shot dead Corey Jones, a well-known local drummer, who was armed, while he sat in his car on a highway exit ramp. Family photo via WPTV

But now family and friends are mourning Jones' death and sharing memories of a man known for being a talented musician who loved playing in his church band.

Jones’ band mate, Boris Simeonov, who played the gig with Jones that evening, told NBC News that Jones has always been a gentleman, a patient person, and a caring individual.

“He had a love for playing his instrument and connecting with people. Anyone that’s ever met him will tell you he’s the calmest, sweetest person," said Simeonov. "I have friends who met him for five minutes and instantly felt like they knew him. He was an amazing human being that we all learned from, sort of a quiet person.”

Jones worked as an inspector for the Delray Beach Housing Authority and carried a pistol for protection in rough neighborhoods, according to Dorothy Ellington, the housing authority's chief executive, who remembered him as "a good person, a good soul."

Simeonov said the band was preparing for a national tour and they recently wrote a song together with a sadly foreboding topic.

“We had a song we wrote about officer brutality and this is what we tour the country and spread awareness about," he said. "And then it happened.”

A musical mentor of his, Willie Smith, shared the same sentiment as Simeonov, telling NBCBLK that Jones was jovial human being. Smith, a music director, said he employed Jones professionally and leisurely and spent a lot of time on the road, doing revivals and playing at various churches.

"He was a fun loving person. Up and down the road, Corey would have you hurting, literally hurting, crying in laughter," shared Smith. "He was just a very jovial person. There’s a big void now in my heart and in the musician community in South Florida. "

 Police in Florida launched an independent investigation after a plainclothes police shot dead Corey Jones, a well-known local drummer, who was armed, while he sat in his car on a highway exit ramp. Family photo via WPTV

The family attorneys, Parks & Crump, LLC, released a statement from the family Tuesday calling Jones "a God-fearing man who dedicated his life to doing the right thing. He lived every moment to the fullest and was an inspiration to many; the kind of son, brother and friend people could only hope for."

When asked by the press about what he would say to the officer who fatally shot his grandson, Bishop Sylvester Banks Sr, Jones' grandfather pleaded for honesty in the proceedings.

"I would plead to him to tell the truth, the truth gonna make you free," he said. "I plead to that individual that he's going to be accountable to what he has done. If he's done right, or whether he's done wicked, he's gonna be accountable for it."

Terrance White, a cousin of Jones, told NBCBLK that although he was a serious musician, he was much more than that. He had a light side and could be a prankster.

“He was a practical joker. He was a person that never had an enemy. He was a type of person that was always smiling and always joking around and living life. I’ve never seen him get mad, honestly,” recalled White.

White is determined to uphold his cousin's character and the squash the idea that anyone would consider Jones a "thug".

“He plays in church, all the time," said White. "He played for locals bands. He just wasn’t that type for you to type his name in and find a record. There’s no way they can turn this around on him because of who he was. His character spoke for itself.“