A Florida police officer dressed in plainclothes shot and killed a 31-year-old black man whose car had broken down on the side of the road over the weekend, reports the Washington Post.
Corey Jones, a drummer who had completed a set with his band about two and a half hours earlier, was killed on Interstate 95, north of West Palm Beach, early Sunday morning.
The Palm Beach Gardens Police Department released a statement Tuesday afternoon, saying that the police officer who shot Jones, Nouman Raja, used lethal force because Jones was armed and confronted Raja. They did not specify what kind of weapon Jones had.
The bass player in Jones’ band, Mathew Huntsberger, told the Post that Jones called him around 1:45 a.m., about an hour after their concert ended, to ask for help with his car. Huntsberger arrived with a container of oil, but when that didn’t work, he called roadside assistance and then went home while Jones waited for help to arrive.
At around 3:15 a.m., Jones’ car was spotted by Raja, who was on duty but driving an unmarked vehicle and not wearing a uniform. According to the police department, Raja thought Jones’ car had been abandoned and stopped to investigate. “As the officer exited his vehicle, he was suddenly confronted by an armed subject,” the department said in their statement. “As a result of the confrontation, the officer discharged his firearm, resulting in the death of the subject.”
The Post spoke to Jones’ cousin, Frank Hearst, about the police department’s assertion that Jones was armed:
Hearst said family members are upset at how little information has been provided about the shooting. They want to know how many shots were fired, and what weapon he allegedly was carrying when he was killed. They say Jones never carried a firearm.
“They’re saying Corey approached him armed, which is a total lie,” Hearst said. “That don’t make sense.”
The Sun Sentinel in Florida reported that Raja, the police officer, was hired by the police department in April; before that he worked for another police department in Florida.
The shooting is being investigated by the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office. According to the Sun Sentinel, Raja has been placed on paid administrative leave, as is standard department policy.
UPDATE, Oct. 20, 6:00 p.m.: Wesley Lowery of the Washington Post reports on Twitter that, according to police, Jones was “armed with a gun he had purchased legally 3 days earlier.”