By Zachary Fagenson
PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. (Reuters) - A Florida musician who was shot and killed by a plainclothes police officer after his car broke down on a highway exit ramp never fired the handgun he was carrying and was running away at one point, lawyers for the dead man's family said on Thursday.
Corey Jones, a 31-year-old black drummer, was waiting for a tow truck around 3 a.m. on Sunday when he was approached by Nouman Raja, an officer of Asian heritage who was driving an unmarked van, the lawyers told a news conference on the steps of the Palm Beach County courthouse accompanied by the dead man's family.
Police say there was a confrontation with Jones, who was carrying a recently purchased handgun, which ended with Jones being shot and killed by Raja, who was on duty investigating a burglary.
Raja, 38, fired six bullets, hitting Jones three times, the family's lawyer, Benjamin Crump, told reporters after meeting with the state attorney investigating the incident.Crump said Raja emerged from a van with tinted windows and never identified himself by showing his badge. "This is troubling on so many levels ... Corey never fired his weapon," he said.
Jones was "running away at some point," he added, though there was no evidence that he was shot in the back. Jones' body was found 80 to 100 feet (24 to 30 meters) from his car and his gun was found on the ground between the car and his body, Crump said.
The fatal bullet entered Jones' side and lodged in his upper body, the lawyers said.
The shooting is the latest in a string of fatal incidents involving police and black men across the United States which have sparked outrage, raising questions about excessive use of force by officers.
Jones' death is being investigated by the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office as well as the state attorney, with the support of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
Lawyers for Jones' family have also asked to see video from surveillance cameras in the area of the shooting.
Raja, who was not injured, has been placed on routine administrative leave with pay while the case is investigated.
Police say the handgun found at the scene was purchased by Jones three days earlier. Jones' family confirmed he bought it for protection.
Jones was driving home to Boynton Beach after a gig with the band Future Prezidents when his car broke down, his family said.
Raja joined the Palm Beach Garden police in April and previously worked for seven years at the police department in Atlantis, a small town south of Palm Beach.
He received a written warning in 2011 after he had to be told to halt a police chase, according to official documents released by Palm Beach Gardens police.
He was also threatened with suspension in 2013 by the Atlantis police department after supervisors found unfiled paperwork and prescription drugs from a narcotics case in Raja’s patrol vehicle, local media reported.
Police declined to comment due to the ongoing investigation. Raja gave no comment on Wednesday when approached by local TV news crews.
(Reporting by Zachary Fagenson in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.; Writing by David Adams; Editing by Matthew Lewis)