Sunday, October 25, 2015

Corey Jones Joins 'The Counted'

Corey Jones, another victim of excessive police violence
After joining with friends last night to celebrate the birthday of my best friend of 29 years, it was truly sobering to open up the New York Times app on my iPhone this morning and read some of the recently-released details about the death of 31-year old Corey Jones (pictured left). 

As you may have read last week, in the early morning hours of last Sunday October 18th, sometime around 3:15am, Jones was shot and killed as he waited with his disabled Hyundai Santa Fe for roadside assistance on an exit ramp alongside I-95 in West Palm Beach, Florida.

According to accounts given by both his band members and family, Jones, a housing inspector who was also an avid musician, left a church event in Jupiter, Florida where he'd been playing drums with his band until late Saturday night when the vehicle he was driving broke down and he stopped somewhere near an off ramp on I-95.
According to information on the incident given to Jones' family by the state prosecutor, Palm Beach Gardens police officer Nouman Raja was driving an unmarked white van with tinted windows and was not wearing a police uniform when he pulled up to the disabled Hyundai Jones was sitting in.

Jones' family attorney says Raja was dressed in jeans, a white t-shirt and a baseball cap and was not carrying or displaying a badge or police identification when he approached the vehicle.

Officer Nouman Raja
Sometime during the 26 minute period between approximately 2:52am when Jones called his brother Clinton to report that he was having car trouble, and 3:18am when Clinton Jones called his brother back and got no answer, some kind of confrontation ensued that resulted in officer Raja (pictured left) firing six shots from his handgun.

Three of those shots stuck Cory Jones, one which broke his arm and another that struck his aorta near his heart and killed him.

His body was found 80 to 100 feet from where his disabled vehicle was parked leading Jones' family attorneys to believe he was trying to run from officer Raja when he was shot. 

According to a statement by Palm Beach Gardens Police Chief Stephen Stepp:

“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 Mr. Corey Jones.”

Since Raja was the only witness and was not wearing a body camera, the statement that "he was suddenly confronted by an armed subject" is yet to be substantiated, but for the time being Stepp has placed Raja on paid administrative leave pending the results of an investigation of the incident.

Jones was carrying a weapon in his vehicle at the time and he had a legal concealed weapons permit for the gun which his family said that he kept for personal protection because he often carried expensive music instruments for the band in his vehicle - but his gun found at the scene where he was killed had not been fired.

When asked why a plainclothes police officer in an unmarked vehicle would approach Jones' vehicle, Stepp gave two seemingly different justifications for the stop. First he claimed Raja believed Jones' vehicle was abandoned.

But there are also reports Raja may have been on a stakeout as part of an investigation of burglaries in the area involving suspects who parked their vehicles along the same stretch of I-95.

If Raja was on a burglary stakeout, why didn't he just call a uniformed traffic officer in a marked patrol vehicle to go check out Jones' car?

FBI investigators scouring the scene where Jones was shot
That's just one of many questions that need answering.

On Thursday, reported that the F.B.I will be assisting the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Department in the investigation of the shooting. 

Attorneys for the Jones family also report that there are a number of video cameras in the area that should provide some footage of the area of the incident; including CCTV camera on the building exteriors of local businesses and a CCTV camera on a nearby streetlight.

This business of police killing black American drivers in what should otherwise be relatively routine traffic stops is totally out of hand in this country.

It was just yesterday that the NY Times ran an article by Sharon LaFraniere and Andrew Lehren detailing the results of their analysis of traffic stops in Greensboro, North Carolina by police showing that both the stops and the subsequent treatment of civilians by police vary widely based on the race of the driver.

Surprising? Certainly not for North Carolina.

Especially given Republican Governor Pat McCrory's questionable record on both the fair and equitable administration of justice in North Carolina, and the passing of some of the most restrictive voter suppression laws in the United States intentionally designed to exclude racial minorities from their right to participate in the electoral process.   

Voter rights activist Ty Turner being arrested in 2014
Remember, this is the same state where African-American activist Ty Turner (pictured left) was handcuffed, arrested and taken to jail by members of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department for placing voter education leaflets on the windshields of cars during a voter rights rally held in Marshall Park in Charlotte, NC on Labor Day weekend back in 2014. 

Call me crazy but doesn't placing voter education flyers on windshields fall under free speech?

So the Times' analysis of the disparate treatment of black drivers by police in Greensboro, NC in not an anomaly or some kind of blip on the radar.

It's part of an ongoing disturbing pattern taking place not just in southern states, but across the U.S.

Let's hope the public pressure helps bring the truth to light in the case of Corey Jones; and a measure of justice to his friends and family.

But until then, Corey Jones becomes one of the approximately 974 people killed by police in the U.S. in 2015, at least 75 in October alone according to statistics compiled by

I think conventional wisdom says Corey Jones sitting in his disabled vehicle on the side of an interstate highway waiting for a tow truck should not have warranted a death sentence.

No crime was being committed here, and Corey Jones had no police record - in fact on a late Saturday night when millions of people were out carousing or drinking, he was playing music with his band at a church event.

But this is 21st century America, where routine circumstances, a tow truck not arriving sooner, and a police officer's overreaction to the color of skin is enough to make someone a member of the unfortunate ranks of 'The Counted.'

And so it went for Corey Jones.

No comments: