Former Palm Beach Gardens police officer Nouman Raja, 41, was convicted Thursday in the 2015 fatal shooting of a Black motorist. A Florida jury found him guilty of manslaughter and attempted murder in connection to the death of Corey Jones, 31, the Associated Press (AP) reports.
On Oct. 18, 2015, Raja was dressed in plain clothes and drove an unmarked white van as he investigated an auto burglary for the Palm Beach Gardens Police Department. Jones, a housing inspector and part-time musician, was on his way home from a nightclub performance when his SUV stalled on a South Florida highway.
Prosecutors say Jones, a concealed-weapons permit holder, was carrying a legally purchased .38-caliber handgun, and pulled it because he was in fear of being robbed. After a brief interaction with Raja, Jones was shot multiple times. A medical examiner confirmed he was killed by a gunshot wound through the heart and was shot once in each arm.
The Palm Beach Gardens Police Department fired Raja one month after the shooting. He was placed under house arrest after he was formally charged in 2016. Prosecutors filed the specific charges because his actions created the confrontation and showed “culpable negligence.”
Raja, who attempted to invoke Florida’s “stand your ground” law, was accused, by prosecutors, of intentionally misleading investigators. The ex-officer told investigators he said, “Police, can I help you?,” during a videotaped interview after the shooting. An audio recording presented by prosecutors proved he never identified himself.
He is the first officer in the state to be convicted of an on-duty shooting in 30 years and is facing a minimum of 25 years in prison. Raja will be sentenced on April 26.
Lawyers for Jones’s family released a statement after the verdict was announced Thursday. “This verdict is a vindication of the good man that was Corey Jones, and an utter repudiation of a criminal who tried to hide behind a badge,” NBC News reports. “Though the Jones family will miss Corey for the rest of their lives, they can finally start to heal knowing that justice has finally been served.”