Family, friends gather to remember Corey Jones on 1-year anniversary of death

Nouman Raja charged in fatal shooting of musician stranded on side of I-95

By Peter Burke - Managing Editor , Andrew Perez - Reporter

BOYNTON BEACH, Fla. - Family members and friends of Corey Jones gathered on the one-year anniversary of his death to remember the musician who was fatally shot by a South Florida police officer.

A celebration of Jones' life was held Tuesday at his Boynton Beach grave site.

Loved ones released balloons for him and said a prayer in his honor.

"My heart breaks every time -- every time -- we have a family function," father Clinton Jones said.

Nouman Raja was arrested in June on charges of manslaughter by culpable negligence and attempted first-degree murder with a firearm.

Corey Jones, 31, was fatally shot by the former Palm Beach Gardens police officer last year.

Police said Jones was stranded on the side of an Interstate 95 exit ramp on Oct. 18, 2015, when he was approached by Raja, who was not in uniform and was driving an unmarked van.

Jones, who was a drummer in a reggae band, was leaving a performance in Jupiter early that morning when his SUV broke down.

"Corey needed help," aunt Sheila Banks said. "He didn't need someone to kill him."

According to a probable cause affidavit, Raja was on duty at the time of the shooting but not wearing clothes that identified him as an officer.

"There had been a problem with late night auto burglaries in Palm Beach Gardens," the affidavit said. "Raja was assigned to surveillance patrol in large parking lots with the goal of locating the burglary suspects."

Raja had been told by his supervisor to wear his tactical vest with police markings on it while working the assignment, but his vest and police radio were on the van's floorboard next the driver's seat when the shooting occurred, the affidavit said.

The officer used his personal cellphone to call 911 after the shooting, providing his version of what happened.

"(Jones) had a silver handgun in his right hand," Raja said. "I came out. I saw him come out with a handgun. I gave him commands. I identified myself and he turned, pointed the gun at me and started running. I shot him."

Police arrived and began their investigation, searching for the gun that Raja claimed Jones was carrying at the time of the shooting. Police used K-9 officers to search the tall grass near the PGA Boulevard exit ramp and found the gun about 74 feet from the back of Jones' SUV.

Jones was found about 192 feet from the back of his vehicle, the affidavit said. Paramedics arrived and pronounced him dead at 3:32 a.m.

"Corey needed help," his aunt, Sheila Banks, said. "He didn't need someone to kill him. He took him. He took him from us. He took him from us."

Raja used his personal gun to shoot Jones because his department-issued gun was in its holster inside the van, the affidavit said.

Three of the six shots that were fired struck Jones -- one in each arm and another to his chest, the affidavit said. Dr. Gertrude Juste, an associate medical examiner in Palm Beach County, performed an autopsy and determined that the gunshot wound to Jones' chest was what caused his death.

"My heart breaks at the thought of that phone call one year later," Jones' father, Clinton Jones, said. "My heart breaks every time we have a family function."

Despite his more than seven years of experience as a police officer, Raja acted "in a tactically unsound, unsafe and grossly negligent manner," the affidavit said.

Raja told police that Jones threw his gun into the grass, but the investigation revealed that Raja "continued to fire at Jones as he ran away," the affidavit said. Juste determined that the shot that struck Jones' right arm was fired from the rear.

"There is no question that Jones ran away from Raja," the affidavit said.

Investigators also determined that Jones' gun was loaded, but the chamber of the pistol was locked and the safety was on, the affidavit said.

Jones had a license to carry a firearm and had purchased the gun days prior to the shooting.

"He had owned the firearm for less than 72 hours when he was killed," the affidavit said.

Raja was fired about a month after the shooting. He is out of jail on a $250,000 bond.

Copyright 2016 by WPLG - All rights reserved.