WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – A doctor testified Tuesday that a stranded black motorist could have run for 15 seconds before collapsing after being shot through the heart by a fired Florida police officer.
Forensic pathologist John Marraccini said Corey Jones also might not have left a blood trail after being shot by former Palm Beach Gardens officer Nouman Raja in October 2015.
Marraccini, testifying for the defense, said the wounds Jones suffered to his chest and each arm were consistent with him pointing his gun at Raja but conceded under cross-examination they also could have happened after he dropped or threw his weapon. Raja, who was wearing plainclothes, shot Jones during a confrontation on a darkened Interstate 95 off ramp. Prosecutors say Raja never identified himself as a police officer and Jones, who had a concealed weapons permit, pulled his gun because he feared he was being robbed.
Raja's attorneys were trying to show with Marraccini's testimony that the fatal shot could have happened during Raja's initial volley when the two were within feet of each other and not a second volley fired 10 seconds later as Jones ran away.
Raja's attorneys are trying to convince Circuit Judge Samantha Schosberg Feuer to dismiss manslaughter and other charges under Florida's "stand your ground" law, saying Raja feared for his life when he opened fire on Jones, whose SUV had broken down as he returned from his reggae band's late night concert. His family says he had recently bought his gun to protect his drum equipment.
Raja, 40, is of South Asian descent. The "stand your ground" law says people can use lethal force if they reasonably believe their life is threatened, but they cannot have created the situation. Raja is the first Palm Beach County law enforcement officer in 25 years to be prosecuted for an on-duty fatal shooting.
When Raja arrived, Jones, who also worked as a housing inspector, was talking to a tow truck dispatch center, which recorded the call. Raja drove the wrong way up the off ramp, pulling directly in front of Jones in a white, unmarked van and got out wearing jeans, a T-shirt, sneakers and a baseball cap. He is never heard identifying himself on the tape.
In the recording, Raja, a seven-year police officer who had joined Palm Beach Gardens six months earlier, yells "You good?" as he approaches. Jones says he is. Raja twice replies, "Really?" with Jones replying "yeah" each time.
Suddenly, Raja shouts for Jones to put his hands up, using an expletive. Jones replies "Hold on!" and Raja repeats his demand. Raja then fires three shots in less than two seconds. Ten seconds pass before three more shots are heard a second apart, apparently Raja firing as Jones ran down an embankment. Raja told investigators Jones kept pointing his gun at him; prosecutors say Raja saw him throw it down but kept firing, which is why he is charged with attempted murder. Investigators have been unable to determine when the fatal shot was fired.
Raja then used his personal cellphone to call 911 with the operator picking up 33 seconds after the last shot was fired. Raja is recorded yelling orders to drop the gun; prosecutors say he was trying to mislead investigators into believing he hadn't seen the gun thrown. Jones' body was found 200 feet (60 meters) from the SUV and 125 feet (38 meters) from his gun, which was unfired.