Wrongful Death Suit Filed in Fla. Cop Shooting

     PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. (CN) – A South Florida police department has been slapped with a wrongful death suit claiming that lax training of an undercover officer contributed to his senseless 2015 killing of Corey Jones, a church drummer who was stranded on the side of the highway.
     In a complaint filed in Palm Beach County Circuit Court on Wednesday, Jones’ father, Clinton Jones Sr., claims that the roadside misunderstanding that culminated in his son’s death could have been avoided if officer Nouman Raja of the Palm Beach Gardens Police Department had been “properly trained” on how to identify himself during his undercover operations.
     Raja was wearing civilian clothes and driving an unmarked van when he pulled up to Jones’ disabled vehicle on a highway exit ramp at around 3 a.m. on Oct. 18, 2015. He was in the midst of a burglary stakeout and had been conducting surveillance of nearby businesses in an affluent area of Palm Beach County.
     Jones, who was armed with a pistol legally purchased less than a week earlier, sat “peacefully waiting in his disabled vehicle,” according to the lawsuit. His car had broken down on the way home from a gig with his reggae band, The Future Presidentz.
     According to the lawsuit, Raja never identified himself as a police officer as he approached Jones’ car.
     Jones was on the phone with a roadside assistance operator, and the recorded call apparently captured the encounter:
     “You good?” Raja asked.
     “I’m good,” Jones said.
     “Really?” Raja said.
     “Yeah, I’m good,” Jones repeated.
     Suddenly Raja is heard yelling for Jones to “get [his] fucking hands up,” prompting Jones to cry out: “Hold on!”
     Raja then fired off six rounds, striking Jones with three bullets, one of which pierced his heart, according to investigators. Jones fled from Raja at one point in the confrontation, but Raja allegedly continued to shoot.
     Jones’ handgun was never discharged: It was found roughly 70 feet from his vehicle, with the safety lock on.
     Clinton Jones’ lawsuit claims the police department bears liability for the tragedy because it failed to comprehensively train officers on how to conduct undercover investigations, employ de-escalation techniques and use non-lethal force.
     Implying Raja had harbored racial bias towards Jones, a young black man, the complaint alleges that the police department neglected to ensure its officers refrained from profiling blacks.
     Additionally, the lawsuit alleges, the department’s police manual does not include “any specifics on what protocols” officers should use when approaching citizens while wearing undercover attire.
     The police department did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit.
     On June 16, Raja was charged with first-degree murder and manslaughter in the shooting.
     The charging documents sharply chide Raja for the manner in which he handled the approach to Jones’ vehicle.
     “Despite his experience, his extensive police training and the [instructions] of a superior officer to wear his tactical vest with police markings on it to clearly identify himself as a police officer, Raja chose to approach Corey Jones’ vehicle in a tactically unsound, unsafe and grossly negligent manner,” a probable cause affidavit states.
     The criminal case is predicated on the notion that Raja fired the fatal shot after Jones dropped or tossed his pistol, which was found 120 feet away from his body.
     A forensic pathologist who performed an autopsy on Jones indicated that the chest wound from the fatal shot was so severe that he would not have been able to run that long a distance, meaning he must’ve been hit with the fatal shot after ditching his pistol, prosecutors claim.
     Raja called 911 to report the incident 30 seconds after the last round was fired, according to prosecutors. Even though Jones was purportedly nowhere near his revolver, Raja yelled during the 911 call, “Drop that fucking gun right now!”
     Raja has pleaded not guilty in the criminal case.
     According to investigators, he had 7 years of police experience and was a certified firearms instructor and law enforcement teacher at the Palm Beach State College Criminal Justice Institute.
     The Palm Beach Gardens Police Department fired him prior to the charges being filed.
     Jones, an inspector for the Delray Beach Housing Authority, was known locally for his reggae band and his volunteer work at the non-profit mentoring group, My Brother’s Keeper. An experienced church drummer, he performed at the Bible Church of God in Boynton Beach, where his grandfather is a bishop. He was 31 years old at the time of his death.

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