Corey Jones’ family: ‘We really deserve justice’ – USA TODAY
The family of a Florida church drummer shot dead while waiting by his disabled car say they want to know exactly what led a plainclothes police officer to kill him early Sunday morning.
Corey Jones’ father, stepmother, older brother and younger sister told USA TODAY the 31-year-old was a jokester who fell in love with drumming as a three-year-old and who later bought a gun for protection. Now, they are searching for answers as details about the fatal shooting begin to emerge.
The Palm Beach Gardens police department says Officer Nouman Raja got out of his car to investigate what he thought was an abandoned vehicle and was suddenly confronted by “an armed subject” who the officer then shot dead. Authorities say a gun was found on the scene.
Jones was licensed to carry a weapon and bought his first gun about a year- and-a -half ago to protect himself because he often played late night gigs and carried a lot of expensive equipment, his sister Melissa Jones, 29, said. That first gun was later stolen so Jones bought another gun by making monthly payments,finally picking it up three days before his death, she said.
“He was very responsible with his gun,” Jones, a hairdresser who lives in Tallahassee, said. “He told me I should go ahead and get a concealed weapon because I have clients going in and out of my house and I don’t know them. I have money that I am dealing with. So he said, ‘for protection get a gun and get the license that you need.”
Jones’ family plans to hold a press conference Thursday morning. Protesters using the hashtag #JusticeforCorey also plan to gather outside the Palm Beach Gardens police department Thursday.
The shooting happened around around 3:15 a.m. after a gig byÂ the Future Prezidents, the band Jones played with, in Jupiter early on Sunday morning. On his way home to Boynton Beach, Jones’ SUV broke down near an interchange on I-95. He called one of his fellow band members for help, who then called roadside assistance after being unable to get the vehicle started.
In a statement on Facebook, the Palm Beach Gardens Police Department said, “Nouman Raja, on duty in a plain clothes capacity, in an unmarked police vehicle, stopped to investigate what he believed to be an abandoned vehicle. As the officer exited his vehicle, he was suddenly confronted by an armed subject. As a result of the confrontation, the officer discharged his firearm, resulting in the death of the subject.”
Raja, 38, was not wearing a body camera, and none of the department’s squad cars are fitted with dashboard cameras. He has been placed on paid administrative leave.
Even with that description from police, older brother Clinton JonesÂ Jr. says he doesn’t know what happened the night his brother was killed. The brothers talked just 20 minutes before the shooting, around 2:50 a.m. Corey Jones told his brother he was stranded and asked for a tow truck number. Clinton JonesÂ Jr. thinks his brother may have felt threatened by Raja.
“I probably would have felt threatened if I was pulled up on the side of road and someone pulled up in front of me in a white van that is unmarked,” theÂ 35-year-oldÂ former NFL player and restaurant owner said.
Benjamin Crump, an attorney for Jones’ family, told USA TODAY that Corey Jones never fired his weapon. “He never fired his gun,”Â Crump said. “This case screams out for explanation and a search for the truth and not to be white washed.”
He added that Jones likely died without understanding that the fatal bullet was fired by a plainclothes police officer.Â “I believe Corey Jones went to his grave never knowing that that the person who was there was a police officer,” Crump said. “The thing that seems reasonable is that he thought he and his car were being vandalized and attacked.”
Now, Clinton JonesÂ Jr.Â is mourning the loss of his younger brother who loved fishing, playing the keyboard and who, when they were both youngsters, used to race him to the drum sets to see who could play first.
Corey Jones’ father Clinton JonesÂ Sr., a 58-year-old who renovates and sells homes, has been married to his children’s stepmother Kattie Jones, 58, who works at a mentoring organization, for 25 years. The couple is clinging to memories of Corey Jones making faces at them and laughing as they kissed and renewed their wedding vows last month.
“He was caring in such a way that it came easy,” Kattie Jones said as her voice cracked with emotion.
Jones’ father said his son would run before getting into a fight and that he never saw his son ever Â get into a fight with anyone. He describes his son as responsible and giving and explained that his love for drumming started early.
“Corey became a drummer when he was about 3 years old,” Clinton Jones, Sr., said. “One time we were looking for him and we went into the kitchen and he was inside the cabinet. I heard something tapping and it was him inside beating on the pots and pans.”
Now the father has a message for people learning about his son’s life and death: “I just want the truth. Keep the beat alive for Corey. Keep his memory alive because he was a great guy.”
Meanwhile, as she waits for answers, Melissa Jones is holding onto memories of the last time she saw her brother alive. The siblings and several family members were celebrating their uncle’sÂ release from prison and Corey Jones volunteered to buy everyone food from Boston Market. Together, they sat laughing as they ate baked chicken, mixed vegetables, and Jones’ favorite food, macaroni and cheese.
“It was a beautiful thing for all of us to be together in harmony and joking,” Melissa Jones said. “I really want to know what happened. We really deserve justice.”