WEST PALM BEACH, FL — A former Florida police officer was sentenced Thursday in a packed courtroom to 25 years in prison for the 2015 shooting death of Corey Jones, a 31-year-old black musician, who had gotten out of his broken-down SUV when he was confronted by then Palm Beach Gardens Officer Nouman Raja.
In March, Raja became the first Florida officer convicted of an on-duty killing since Miami’s William Lozano in 1989 when the Hispanic officer fatally shot a black motorcyclist who he said tried to hit him. A passenger died when the motorcycle crashed. The deaths resulted in three days of rioting.
Raja was sentenced by Judge Joseph Marx, who also presided over the trial in which a Palm Beach County jury found Raja guilty of manslaughter and attempted first-degree murder in March after deliberating for only a day. Raja faced up to life in prison.
“On count one, I hereby sentence you to 25 years in the Department of Corrections,” said the judge. “And on count two, I hereby sentence Mr. Raja to 25 years in the Department of Corrections. That is as a minimum mandatory which will also require that he serve day for day. Those sentences will run concurrently.”
The victim’s father, Clinton Jones Sr., asked the judge for a life sentence, saying his request wasn’t out of hatred but because of the pain caused to Jones’ family.
Well-known civil rights attorney Ben Crump later said the sentence sends a message that killers must pay for their crimes, even if they carry a badge.
“This conviction and sentencing will be documented as a footnote in American jurisprudence, as the first time in 30 years a Florida police officer was convicted and sentenced for killing a black man,” said Crump. “It is a milestone for black America. Nothing can bring Corey back, but as we stand here today, we have made history.”
The officer was in plain clothes and driving an unmarked white van when he drove the wrong way up a darkened off ramp to Jones’ stalled SUV. Prosecutors said an audio recording showed Raja never identified himself and approached Jones aggressively, making him believe he was being robbed. They say that caused Jones to pull his legally possessed handgun. Raja then shot him repeatedly.
Raja’s attorneys had said he identified himself and justifiably shot Jones because he feared for his life. Raja is of South Asian descent.
“In just one night’s time two families have lost so much,” a relative of the former officer told Judge Marx before the sentence was announced. “Six weeks ago we all started a whole new world of hurt, watching our friend, husband, uncle, brother, cousin be taken from us. Please know that the last few years for his family have not been easy by any means and children see everything.”
Raja’s supervisor testified during the trial that the officer had been told to don a police vest if he approached a civilian, something he did not do. Prosecutors also questioned why Raja didn’t pull his badge from his pocket.
What police didn’t know at first was that Jones had been talking to a tow-truck dispatcher on a recorded line. That recording captured Jones saying “Huh?” as his door opens. Raja yells, “You good?” Jones says he is. Raja replies twice, “Really?” with Jones replying “Yeah.”
Suddenly, Raja shouts at Jones to raise his hands, using an expletive. Jones replies, “Hold on!” and Raja repeats his demand.
Prosecutors believe Jones pulled his gun and tried to get away. Raja fired three shots; Jones ran down an embankment. Prosecutors said he threw his gun, found 125 feet from his body, but Raja fired three more times, 10 seconds after the first volley. Jones was killed by a bullet through his heart.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.
Click Here: camiseta seleccion argentina