Convicted of manslaughter and first-degree murder, former Florida police officer Nouman Raja was sentenced Thursday to 25 years in prison for fatally shooting a stranded motorist. According to court documents, Raja had been wearing street clothes while driving an unmarked car shortly before killing the victim without previously identifying himself as a police officer.
At 1:44 a.m. on October 18, 2015, church drummer Corey Jones called the Florida Highway Patrol to request roadside assistance according to phone records. While waiting for a tow truck, Jones called his friend, Mathew Huntsberger, for help. Unable to fix Jones’ broken-down SUV, Huntsberger headed home around 2:30 a.m.
At 3:10 a.m., Jones made his final call to AT&T’s roadside assistance line. Five minutes later, on-duty Palm Beach Gardens police officer Nouman Raja arrived wearing plainclothes and driving an unmarked van. According to Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg, Raja was not in uniform, not in a marked police vehicle, and did not show a badge to Jones before shooting him. Jones’ final call to roadside assistance ended at 4:03 a.m., for a duration of 53 minutes.
Although the Florida Highway Patrol and AT&T both refused to disclose information about Jones’ calls, the Delray Beach housing authority released a log of the calls made on his employer-issued cellphone in response to a public records request. AT&T will not comment whether Jones was on hold or speaking to a representative when he died.
Wearing jeans, a T-shirt, and a baseball cap instead of a uniform, Raja pulled up in an unmarked department-issued van not equipped with police lights. Since Raja was not wearing a body camera and none of the department’s cars are fitted with dashcams, no videos recorded the incident. Working a burglary detail in plainclothes, it remains unclear why Raja decided to pull over and inspect a broken-down vehicle instead of notifying the Florida Highway Patrol.
After shooting Jones three times, Raja was immediately placed on paid administrative leave. Less than a month later, Raja had been fired from the department.
Convicted of manslaughter while armed with a firearm and attempted first-degree murder, Raja was sentenced Thursday to 25 years in prison.