Read The Palm Beach Post’s complete coverage of Corey Jones’ shooting, MyPalmBeachPost.com/coreyjones
An audio recording of the controversial shooting of Corey Jones by a Palm Beach Gardens police officer six months ago does exist, The Palm Beach Post has learned, and it doesn’t completely match what the officer told investigators.
The recording comes from an AT&T roadside assistance line that Jones called several times from inside his broken-down SUV in the early morning of Oct. 18.
Investigators were able to recover one of the calls, which Jones dialed five minutes before he was shot and killed by plainclothes officer Nouman Raja, according to a person with knowledge of the incident.
The recorded call lasted 53 minutes before, during and after the incident, AT&T phone logs show.
It’s unclear how Raja’s statement differs from the recording, but it has raised concerns among investigators, The Post’s source said.
The case is expected to be finished soon and turned over to Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg, who will have to make a decision on whether to charge Raja with a crime, present the case to a grand jury or not charge Raja. The recording, combined with Raja’s statement, could be critical to that decision.
State Attorney spokesman Mike Edmondson wouldn’t confirm or deny the existence of the recording, which wouldn’t become public record until the case is closed or until it becomes part of discovery in a criminal trial.
“All we can say is that it is an ongoing investigation,” Edmondson said Wednesday.
Jones, 31, was shot three times by Raja after the officer, who was on-duty but not in uniform, suddenly pulled in front of him in an unmarked van on an Interstate 95 off-ramp.
Raja told investigators that he had to shoot Jones because Jones came at him with a gun. He fired six shots. Evidence shows Jones never fired the weapon.
Raja was fired a few weeks later.
A week after the shooting, The Post reported first that Jones was on hold while awaiting a tow truck. Law enforcement officials would not say whether they had checked at that time with AT&T for the existence of a recording, but AT&T said it was cooperating with police.
The fact that a recording exists was not publicly known until now.
Jones’ family, who had been briefed by the the state attorney’s office on some details of the case, didn’t know the recording existed, they said Wednesday.
“I hope that it works in our favor,” Jones’ father, Clinton Jones Sr., said Wednesday when told of the recording. “I just want the truth to come out. I’m looking forward to it.”
Raja’s lawyer, Richard Lubin, declined to comment.
Jones made multiple calls to family members and AT&T’s roadside assistance line, #HELP, after his car stalled on the Interstate 95 off-ramp to PGA Boulevard on his way back from a gig.
Jones, a building manager for the Delray Beach Housing Authority, was also a drummer.
The last call to AT&T was at 3:10 a.m., five minutes before he was shot and killed by Raja. It’s unclear whether investigators received all of the calls Jones made to the recorded line.
The investigation is being led by the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office and includes three other law enforcement agencies, including the FBI. Prosecutors said they have interviewed more than 100 potential witnesses spanning 30 states and three countries. In the days after the shooting, the FBI was also called out to search the scene for more evidence.
The shooting received national attention, and there have been multiple protests in front of Aronberg’s office — most recently on Monday — urging him to charge Raja with a crime.
Adding to the pressure, Aronberg is up for re-election this year, although nobody has yet declared to run against him before the May 7 qualifying deadline.
Aronberg could choose to directly file charges against Raja or not, or leave the decision up to a grand jury, where the proceedings are secret. A third option, to take the case before a coroner’s inquest, hasn’t been used since 2005.
Prosecutors in Palm Beach County haven’t charged an officer in a shooting since at least 2000.
Kweku Darfoor, one of the attorneys for Jones’ family, reiterated that Jones’ family believes he would have followed any orders Raja gave him had he known Raja was a police officer.
“We believe that whatever comes out will show that Corey is exactly who we knew him to be, and that he did nothing wrong,” Darfoor said. “Now we’re finally getting a bit of information, but still waiting for the whole truth to come out.”