Ex-officer charged in Florida shooting death of black man

A mourner cries at the funeral for Corey Jones at the Payne Chapel AME of West Palm Beach, Florida October 31, 2015. REUTERS/Mike Stocker/Pool
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By Letitia Stein

TAMPA, Fla. (Reuters) - A former Florida police officer was arrested and charged on Wednesday in the fatal shooting of a black musician after a grand jury found that he had used unjustified force.

Nouman Raja was charged with manslaughter and attempted first-degree murder with a firearm, Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg said at a news conference. If convicted, he could be sentenced to up to life in prison.

Raja, 38, was fired from the Palm Beach Gardens Police Department after the Oct. 18 shooting of 31-year-old Corey Jones. In late April, Aronberg said he would turn evidence over to a grand jury since his office's investigation had been inconclusive.

Jones' death contributed to the national debate over the use of excessive force by law enforcement officers.

John Kazanjian, president of the Palm Beach County Police Benevolent Association, which is representing Raja, declined to comment. He said the organization would answer questions at a news conference on Thursday.

Raja, who was driving an unmarked van and wearing plain clothes when he approached Jones in the early morning hours, fired six shots at Jones within 13 seconds, according to a probable cause affidavit released by prosecutors on Wednesday.

Jones, who was hit three times, died of a gunshot wound to his chest, it said.

According to the affidavit, Jones never fired a .380 caliber handgun that was recovered at the scene, which he had purchased legally three days earlier.

Audio from the shooting was captured on a recording of a roadside assistance call Jones had placed after his vehicle broke down before Raja arrived. According to the affidavit, the recording showed that Raja had not identified himself as a police officer. It said he was unaware of the open call.

"The homicide of Corey Jones occurred as a result of Officer Raja's culpably negligent actions," the affidavit said.

Jones' family said in a statement released by an attorney, "While we understand that nothing can bring back our son, brother and friend, this arrest sends a message that this conduct will not be tolerated from members of law enforcement."

(Additional reporting by Colleen Jenkins in Winston-Salem, N.C.; Editing by James Dalgleish, Toni Reinhold)

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