In a history-making decision, jurors in West Palm Beach, Florida, found Nouman Raja guilty of manslaughter with a firearm and first-degree attempted murder—the first time in three decades a Florida cop has been convicted in a civilian’s death while on duty. The fired Palm Beach Gardens police officer faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years and up to life in prison.
With this conviction, Raja is in a unique category since police are rarely convicted and imprisoned in fatal slayings.
“Each year, about 1,000 police shootings result in fatalities,” criminologist Philip Stinson of Bowling Green State University told governing.com. “But in the 12 years between 2005 and 2017, just 82 police officers were charged with murder or manslaughter for an on-duty shooting—and only 28 of them were convicted.”
“The National Police Misconduct Reporting Project analyzed 3,238 criminal cases against police officers from April 2009 through December 2010,” vox.com reports in November 2018. “They found that only 33 percent were convicted, and 36 percent of officers who were convicted ended up serving prison sentences. Both of those are about half the rate at which members of the public are convicted or incarcerated.”
A relative of Jones told a reporter that “the sweetest sound was the click of those handcuffs” after Raja was led away after the verdict on March 5, 2019.
Raja, 41, who is of Pakistani descent, was found guilty of fatally shooting stranded motorist Corey Jones, 31, an African-American, on October 18, 2015.
Jones was en route home after a performance with his reggae band when his SUV stalled, leaving him on the shoulder of an I-95 exit ramp after 3:15 a.m. and on the phone with a tow-truck dispatcher. Raja, a plainclothes officer investigating car burglaries, pulled his unmarked van up to Jones’ SUV after driving the wrong way up the ramp. He did not identify himself when he confronted Raja, the phone recording reveals. Raja’s attorneys, however, argued the cop did identify himself and shot in self-defense. Jones, who was carrying a new $10,000 drum set, might have feared he was being robbed. He grabbed his legally purchased handgun and ran down an embankment. Raja fired his weapon six times, striking Jones’ heart and each arm.
When the officer called 911, “he acted as if he had not yet fired the shots that killed Corey Jones,” The Palm Beach Post reports. “He ‘lied,’” a State Attorney’s Office report reveals.
The verdict capped a hearing highlighted by a “chilling animation” of the incident, video and audio recordings, testimony that the cop violated police procedure, and the defense arguing that Raja was protected under Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law.
“This did something that our country usually doesn’t believe in doing: holding police officers accountable,” Tifanny Burks, an organizer with Black Lives Matter Alliance Broward, told the Post.
“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,” begins a statement from the Jones family legal team.
Sources: palmbeachpost.com, miamiherald.com, vox.com, cbsnews.com
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