By Austen Erblat
Two years after Corey Jones was killed by an undercover police officer, the officer in question was fired and arrested and the department he worked at has purchased body cameras for their officers.
Friends, family, local activists and politicians are continuing the fight for justice and accountability and are holding a fundraiser on Saturday, October 21st at Sons & Daughters Farm and Winery in Lake Worth to raise money for the Corey Jones Scholarship Fund.
Local musician, Corey Jones. Photo source: WPBF
I describe the events that led to Jones’ death in a February 2017 post after it was found that the officer that killed Jones, Nouman Raja, violated department protocol as well as direct orders from superiors and then lied to a 911 dispatcher and investigators. Raja was fired from Palm Beach Gardens Police Department and then charged with manslaughter by culpable negligence and attempted first-degree murder with a firearm, charges that could result in a life sentence.
A media representative for the department said they could not comment on an open case, but did say “as we approach the anniversary of Corey’s death, the leadership of the City remains as focused as ever on preventing any other tragedies such as this from occurring. It is a time of reflection for Palm Beach Gardens, as we are sure it is for the rest of the community.”
In January 2017, the FBI released the findings of its investigation into what happened that night in a video that overlays audio recordings with a digital animation.
According to a probable cause affidavit, Raja acted in ways that were “tactically unsound” and was “confrontational” with Jones.
An autopsy report indicates that he was shot in the back, while running away.
Palm Beach Gardens Police Department approved body cameras for every officer in the department in response to Jones’ death. The department also updated their use of force policy earlier this year, according to public records released in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.
Implementing a statewide policy for body cameras has not been easy though. HB 513 (and the identical Senate bill, SB 828), put forward in the Florida House and Senate both died in the state’s Criminal Justice Subcommittee. I reached out to every member of the committee for comment.
Florida House Representative Clay Yarborough informed me that he was just appointed to the Criminal Justice Subcommittee and was not a member when the bill was introduced.
Representative, Emily Slosberg said that the bill never made it to the committee’s agenda, but that she fully supported it because “it increases law enforcement accountability” and that “studies show that body cameras are effective in decreasing complaints.” Slosberg added that she was “not aware of any industry that is opposed to the bill.”
A 2015 study by the Journal of Quantitative Criminology found reductions in use of force against citizens from law enforcement and reductions in citizen complaints against law enforcement officers.
Other local departments have implemented body-worn cameras for their officers, including Boynton Beach Police Department and West Palm Beach Police Department. Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, however, has rejected requests for the cameras and plans for their funding.
Michael Marsh, a friend of Jones, has become an activist for criminal justice reform since his friend was killed. Marsh believes the bills died because law enforcement and other public officials can act with less impunity if their actions are being recorded. “Think about what their dashcams have captured,” he said. “We deserve this transparency, accountability, and accessibility!”
The trial was originally set for this month but was delayed and is currently set for April 2nd, 2018 at 9:30 AM at the main branch of the Palm Beach County Court in room 11E.
To follow the case, you can use Palm Beach County Court case number 50-2016-CF-005507-AXXX-MB or follow Justice For Corey Jones on Facebook.
Jones’ friends and local musicians released an album earlier this year using drum tracks Jones left behind. All money raised from album sales are donated to the American Civil Liberties Union. For the recordings, visit coreyjonesrecordings.bandcamp.com.