A former Florida police officer was sentenced to 25 years in prison on Thursday for fatally shooting a black motorist who was awaiting a tow truck in October 2015.
Nouman Raja, 41, faces a maximum of life in prison after he was convicted last month by a jury of manslaughter and first-degree murder.
The conviction was unusual in a country in which police officers kill roughly 1,000 people each year, a disproportionate number of them black men, usually without facing prosecution, according to a Washington Post database on police shootings.
Jones’ relatives asked Judge Joseph Marx to give Raja the maximum sentence of life in prison during the sentencing hearing. The judge said it was a “heartbreaking” case before handing down the sentence of 25 years, the minimum required under state law, for both counts, to run concurrently.
Raja was fired from the Palm Beach Gardens Police Department after he killed 31-year-old Corey Jones and was charged in 2016 with using unjustifiable force.
Police said Raja was in plainclothes and driving an unmarked van when he encountered a car he thought was abandoned on a West Palm Beach highway exit ramp on Oct. 18, 2015.
Jones, a professional drummer, was in the car. Police said Jones pulled out a handgun that he had legally purchased three days earlier before Raja fired at him six times within 13 seconds. Raja hit Jones three times, and Jones died of a gunshot wound to his chest.
Raja’s defense team has argued that their client feared for his life when Jones drew his gun.
According to prosecutors, an audio recording of the incident showed Raja did not identify himself as a police officer.
“Without that tape recorder, he (Raja) would have lied and his proclamation that he was standing his ground would have reigned supreme,” Benjamin Crump, a lawyer for Jones’ family, said at a news conference after Raja was convicted.
(Reporting by Gabriella Borter; Editing by David Gregorio)