Ex-officer: Fatal Fla. shooting of motorist was 'classic case of self-defense'

Lawyers for Nouman Raja said the charges from the fatal shooting of Corey Jones should be dismissed because it “was wholly justifiable”

By Marc Freeman
Sun Sentinel

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — The former police officer who shot and killed stranded motorist Corey Jones says it was “a classic case of self-defense” and he shouldn’t be prosecuted any longer.

Lawyers for Nouman Raja on Thursday filed a claim under Florida’s controversial “stand your ground” law, arguing the charges from the shooting Oct. 18, 2015, in Palm Beach Gardens should be dismissed because it “was wholly justifiable.”

A Palm Beach County Sheriff's deputy keeps watch over the home of Palm Beach Gardens police Officer Nouman Raja, Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015, in Lake Worth, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
A Palm Beach County Sheriff's deputy keeps watch over the home of Palm Beach Gardens police Officer Nouman Raja, Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015, in Lake Worth, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

“Officer Raja faced a man who pointed a gun at him, and did what any citizen is entitled to do: he defended himself,” wrote attorney Richard Lubin.

He asked Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Samantha Schosberg Feuer to hold a hearing where the defense would present evidence to show Raja deserves immunity.

Jones’ family has a pending wrongful death civil lawsuit against Raja, but it’s on hold until the criminal case is over.

Clinton Jones Sr., father of Corey Jones, said Thursday Raja “brought on the confrontation. I don’t understand how it can be self-defense.”

For now, Raja, 40, is facing a trial in April on charges of manslaughter by culpable negligence while armed, and attempted first-degree murder with a firearm. A grand jury found that his “use of force” was unjustified.

Raja remains on house arrest with a GPS ankle monitor — permitted to run some errands and work for a Boynton Beach firm that supplies gear to law enforcement agencies — under a $250,000 bond.

Jones, a 31-year-old Delray Beach housing inspector and a church drummer from west of Lake Worth, was on the way home from a gig with his reggae band when his SUV broke down. He stopped along an Interstate 95 southbound exit ramp at 1:30 a.m.

At the time, Raja was assigned to patrol parking lots in response to a string of late-night vehicle burglaries. Prosecutors say he approached Jones in an unmarked cargo van in plain clothes at about 3:15 a.m. — what they’ve called a “tactically unsound, unsafe and grossly negligent manner.”

Raja’s lawyers claim he identified himself as a cop and Jones jumped out of his SUV and “immediately drew a gun and pointed it at Officer Raja.” Raja ordered Jones to drop the weapon but he did not, wrote Lubin, with attorneys Scott Richardson and Rick King.

Raja, seeing what he thought was a “red laser” from the muzzle of Jones’ licensed .380-caliber handgun, then fired three shots because he feared for his life, the defense claims.

Jones then ran to a grassy area and Raja followed, when “Officer Raja saw a flash and Mr. Jones raise his right arm as if to point the gun again,” Lubin continued.

That prompted Raja to fire three more shots at Jones, according to the defense.

The “stand your ground law,” first enacted in 2005, says someone does not have to retreat and can legally use deadly force if the person reasonably believes doing so is necessary “to prevent imminent death.”

Of the six shots, Jones was hit three times. One of the bullets tore through Jones’ heart and both lungs, fatally wounding him, according to medical examiner findings.

Prosecutors have accused Raja of not telling the truth to investigators about identifying himself as an officer, or what followed. They are leaning on the recording of a phone call between Jones and a roadside assistance operator that captured sounds of the shooting.

Investigators said the recording proves Raja fired the second round of shots even after he had to have realized that Jones had tossed his weapon in the grass near the rear of his SUV.

At least one of the shots was fired as Jones ran, because a bullet struck the back of Jones’ upper right arm, according to a prosecutors’ report.

Raja’s legal team on Thursday contends more recent testimony from the lead investigators proves “the state has no idea how this shooting occurred.”

©2018 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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