After trying in vain to help his bandmate fix a broken-down car, bass player Mathew Huntsberger headed home for the night.
It was about 1:45 a.m, early Sunday. Corey Jones, a 31-year-old drummer, had called just after the Future Prezidents finished the night's gig. His car was broken down on an exit ramp of I-95 and he needed a hand. But after some time it became clear Huntsberger couldn't help much, and he left. Jones stayed with his car.
About 45 minutes later, a plainclothes police officer fatally shot Jones.
“When I left him he was sitting in his car calling roadside assistance,” Huntsberger told the Washington Post. “I never would have thought that someone was going to come kill him.”
Details surrounding the shooting of Jones, who was black, are murky at best. A source from the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office, which is investigating the incident, told local media that Jones pulled a gun on Officer Nouman Raja as soon as he approached. The Palm Beach Gardens Police Department, where the officer who was involved with the shooting works, has been quiet about details, and has refused any interviews on the incident. The president of the local police union has called on the department to be more transparent about the process.
"You don't want another Ferguson, where they sat on the information for days," union president John Kazanjian said. "They need to get out there and address the public… Chief: get out there and tell the public what is going on"
Public outrage over the shooting started with Jones' family and friends, and even his longtime boss at a local housing authority, where he had worked for eight years.
"He respected everyone. I can't imagine what could have happened that would cause the police officer to be threatened by Corey. Corey was not a threat to anyone," Delray Beach Housing Authority CEO Dorothy Ellington said.
U.S. representative Patrick Murphy (D-FL), who represents the district where the shooting happened, released a statement on Tuesday offering condolences to the Jones family and calling for more transparency.
"Corey's family deserves answers and an open and transparent investigation. Our whole community deserves nothing less, and I will be doing everything I can to ensure all the facts come to light," his statement read, in part.
Piecing together what took place in the time just after Jones' friend Huntsberger left the scene and the time of the shooting will prove invaluable to the case. Since the officer was doing undercover surveillance duty in an unmarked white van at the time, there is no dashcam footage of the incident. According to the unnamed source who spoke to local station WPBF, here's what initial reports say:
[T]he account Palm Beach Gardens officer Nouman Raja told investigators is that stranded motorist Corey Jones pulled a gun on him as soon as Raja approached him on the PGA exit ramp from I-95 and said “Police, man, are you alright?”
Raja said he then fired two to three shots at Jones, who was standing behind his open driver’s side door. He said Jones then took off running.
Raja told investigators he was tracking Jones as he ran, and saw him make it to the guardrail west of the car, about 30 feet away.
The source said Raja said he could see the flickering silver of a laser on Jones’ gun, and that’s when he took aim and fired two more times.
A semi-automatic pistol was found on the scene, with six rounds in the magazine, according to the source.
The officer is on administrative leave following the shooting, per department policy.
The Jones family has already hired attorney Benjamin Crump, who has previously represented the families of slain teens Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and 12-year old Tamir Rice.
In statements to the media, those close to Jones describe him as a caring, loving person who made longtime friends with several musicians in his church.
“He was a good kid, just coming home from a gig,” Jones’s cousin Frank Hearst, 36, of Nashville, Tenn., told the Washington Post. “He was just an all-around good guy who never got into any trouble, never had any record."
"It’s just an unfortunate situation," he said.
Daniel Rivero is a producer/reporter for Fusion who focuses on police and justice issues. He also skateboards, does a bunch of arts related things on his off time, and likes Cuban coffee.