After his SUV broke down early on Sunday, a drummer in a church band was waiting for a tow truck to arrive when a plainclothes officer shot and killed him. As the police continue to withhold details about the fatal shooting, the president of the police union has called for the chief to allow transparency and release the details of the shooting.
Around 1:45 a.m. on Sunday, drummer Corey Jones called bass player Mathew Huntsberger and asked him for help. Jones and Huntsberger were in the band, Future Prezidents, and had finished a show almost an hour earlier. Huntsberger arrived a few minutes later with a can of oil, but Jones’ SUV remained broken down on the side of the road on Interstate 95.
“I tried to help him the best I could, but I’m not a mechanic or anything,” Huntsberger told The Washington Post.
After calling roadside assistance, Huntsberger decided to head home around 2:30 a.m., while Jones waited for the tow truck. Roughly 45 minutes later, Jones was shot to death by a plainclothes police officer.
“When I left him he was sitting in his car calling roadside assistance,” Huntsberger recalled. “I never would have thought that someone was going to come kill him.”
According to a police statement, Palm Beach Gardens police officer Nouman Raja was on-duty wearing plainclothes and driving an unmarked car when he stopped to investigate Jones’ vehicle at approximately 3:15 a.m. Although police claim that Jones was armed, they initially did not mention what type of weapon he was carrying. Police also refused to disclose whether Raja identified himself as an officer or if he exchanged any words with Jones prior to the shooting.
“As the officer exited his vehicle, he was suddenly confronted by an armed subject,” the police department said in a statement. “As a result of the confrontation, the officer discharged his firearm, resulting in the death of the subject, Corey Jones.”
“They’re saying he was armed, but I don’t know if I believe it,” said Huntsberger. “Of course they’re going to say that. If I was there, maybe it’s a different situation. I just don’t know what happened.”
As well as playing drums in a band and at Bible Church of God in Boynton Beach, Jones also worked at the Delray Beach Housing Authority in Florida, inspecting and sometimes repairing homes for low-income families. In an interview with The Palm Beach Post, Jones’ aunt Serena Banks said she believed Jones had a gun permit and a gun, but would never use it. A police spokeswoman, Ellen Lovejoy, later confirmed that Jones had a firearm.
“He was a good kid, just coming home from a gig,” said Jones’s cousin Frank Hearst. “He was just an all-around good guy who never got into any trouble, never had any record. It’s just an unfortunate situation.”
On Tuesday, the president of the Palm Beach County Police Benevolent Association, John Kazanjian, accused the police chief of avoiding transparency by withholding information from the public. According to the police union president, Palm Beach Gardens officers have recently been receiving death threats because the chief refuses to allow interviews or release more details about the fatal shooting.
“We don’t want another Ferguson. They need to get out there and address the public…Chief, get out there and tell the public what is going on,” Kazanjian stated.
Per department policy, Raja has been placed on paid administrative leave pending an investigation into the incident. The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office is conducting an independent investigation into the shooting.