By Gina Cherelus
(Reuters) – A Florida jury on Thursday convicted a former police officer for manslaughter and attempted first-degree murder in the fatal 2015 shooting of a black motorist who was waiting for his car to be towed off the highway.
Nouman Raja, 41, was charged in 2016 after a grand jury found he had used unjustified force when he shot and killed 31-year-old Corey Jones while wearing plainclothes on a highway exit ramp in West Palm Beach.
Raja looked distraught as the jury read their verdict after five hours of deliberations inside a judicial circuit court. He was placed in handcuffs and escorted out of the courtroom. Raja faces a maximum sentence of life in prison when he is sentenced on April 26.
Relatives of Jones left the West Palm Beach courtroom in tears, hugging each other and raising their hands in praise.
“It was truth that convicted him. It was truth that brought him to justice. It was the truth that sent him to jail,” the victim’s father, Clinton Jones, told reporters outside. “It was truth that gave us justice for Corey.”
Prosecutor Adrienne Ellis thanked the jury for their service.
“They’re a smart group and they were fair,” Ellis said. “When I say I’m speechless, it’s because I’m overwhelmed with just gratitude.”
Raja’s lawyer, Richard Lubin, had argued that the police officer feared for his life when Jones pulled out a gun during the roadside encounter, according to WPEC CBS12 News.
Raja was driving an unmarked van when he approached Jones early on Oct. 18, 2015, and fired six shots at the victim within 13 seconds, according to prosecutors.
Jones had pulled out a .380-caliber handgun that he had legally purchased three days earlier. He was hit three times and died of a gunshot wound to his chest.
Audio from the incident was captured on a recording of a roadside assistance call that Jones had placed before Raja arrived. According to prosecutors, the recording showed that Raja did not identify himself as a police officer.
(Reporting by Gina Cherelus in New York; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Jonathan Oatis)