Former Florida Cop Charged in Drummer Corey Jones' Fatal Shooting Gets Bond

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.
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

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By Erik Ortiz

The former cop who fatally shot a popular musician along a Florida highway last fall was granted $250,000 bond Thursday but ordered to remain on house arrest.

Nouman Raja, 38, made his first court appearance following his arrest Wednesday on manslaughter and attempted murder charges, which could land him in prison for life if found guilty.

The family of victim Corey Jones sat in the courtroom as Raja — a seven-year police veteran who recently joined the Palm Beach Gardens force — appeared in handcuffs and a blue prison uniform.

While out on bail, he must surrender his firearms and have no contact with Jones' family or Palm Beach Gardens officers. His arraignment was set for June 14.

Raja was wearing plainclothes when he confronted Jones off Interstate 95 at about 3:15 a.m. on Oct. 18. He did not know at the time that Jones was on a recorded phone call with a tow truck operator.

Jones, a professional drummer and housing inspector, was on the side of the road after his car broke down. He was armed, his family said, because he often worried about being robbed of his expensive equipment.

Jones, who was black, and the operator had talked uneventfully for about two minutes when Raja, who is of South Asian descent, pulled up the ramp from the wrong direction and parked in front of Jones' SUV, according to charging documents. Raja, who was investigating a string of auto burglaries, was driving an unmarked cargo van with no police lights.

Charging documents say that, on the recording, as Jones and the operator talked, the door chimes from Jones' SUV sounded, indicating he stepped out as Raja approached. It recorded an exchange where Raja repeatedly asks variations of "You good?" to which Jones repeatedly replies that he is. Raja never says he is a police officer.

Suddenly, the officer shouts, using an expletive, for Jones to put his hands up.

Jones replies: "Hold on!" And Raja repeats his demand.

Related: Palm Beach Gardens Cop Fired After Corey Jones Shooting

Raja then fired three shots in less than two seconds, according to the charging documents. Ten seconds of silence then pass before three more shots, each fired about a second apart, are heard.

Immediately after the shooting, Raja used his personal cellphone to call 911. As the operator answered 33 seconds after the last shot was fired, according to charging documents, Raja yelled at someone to drop the gun even though Jones' autopsy showed a bullet had pierced his heart and lungs and would have felled him almost immediately.

Raja told the 911 dispatcher that he had identified himself as a police officer and that he began firing as Jones came at him with a gun, prosecutors say. He said he continued firing because Jones was pointing his gun at him as he ran away.

Jones' gun was retrieved with the safety on; no shots had been fired.

Prosecutors say in their charging document that given the distance between the gun and Jones' body — and the heart wound that would have incapacitated him — they believe Raja fired the last three shots after he knew Jones had thrown down his gun and was running away.

An attorney for Raja could not immediately be reached for comment.

At a news conference Thursday after the ex-officer’s hearing, an attorney for Jones’ family said the tow truck recording is crucial evidence in the case.

“We want to thank God for that audio tape … if it wasn’t for that tape, then the officer probably would have gotten away with a lie,” said attorney Benjamin Crump, adding, “Corey Jones should never have been killed that night.”

The Associated Press contributed.