A Florida court found ex-police officer Nouman Raja guilty of manslaughter and attempted murder Thursday for fatally shooting Corey Jones, a black musician, on the side of a highway in 2015. Raja may face a life sentence.
On the morning of Oct. 18, 2015, 31-year-old Jones was stranded on Interstate 95 in South Florida after his SUV broke down while on his way home from a performance. Raja, now 41, approached Jones wearing plainclothes and driving an unmarked white van. Prosecutors alleged that, based on a recording from a call that Jones had placed for roadside assistance, Raja never identified himself as a law enforcement officer.
According to the prosecutors, the recording also revealed that Jones was afraid of being robbed, as he had a $10,000 drum kit in the back of his vehicle. When Jones produced a .38-caliber handgun that he had legally purchased days earlier, Raja fired six shots from his .40-caliber Glock pistol. The fatal shot punctured Jones’ heart and both his lungs. He was also struck in both arms.
A police supervisor testified that Raja had been instructed to wear his police vest whenever approaching a civilian. The Palm Beach Gardens Police Department fired him less than a month after the incident.
During the trial, Raja’s lawyers argued that his conduct was legal under Florida’s “stand your ground” law, which allows people to use deadly force if they fear for their life and safety. They further contended that Raja did in fact identify himself as law enforcement.
“We see what can happen when prosecutors have the dedication to charge an on-duty law enforcement officer in the murder of an innocent black man, and what can happen when a thoughtful judge rejects a shameless ploy to use Florida’s questionable Stand Your Ground law as a shield against wrongdoing,” lawyers representing Jones’ family said in a statement on the verdict.
This is the first time in 30 years that a Florida officer has been convicted for an on-duty killing.
In 1989, Miami officer William Lozano was convicted for killing a black motorist and his passenger. Lozano was later acquitted in a retrial four years later.