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PALM BEACH (CBSMiami/AP) – A former Palm Beach Gardens police officer charged with manslaughter and attempted first-degree murder in the 2015 shooting death of black musician stranded on the side of the road got a little emotional in court during the second day of his trial.
It was during the testimony of Sgt. Chris Kaprinski.
During his testimony, a video was played of Kaprinski giving former Officer Nouman Raja “on scene” interview about what happened. It was recorded just four and a half hours after Raja fatally shot Corey Jones. Raja appeared to wipe away tears as the video was played.
Jones, a part-time drummer who also worked as a housing inspector, was returning home from a nightclub performance early on the morning of October 18th when his SUV broke down on an off-ramp of Interstate 95. His drums, valued at $10,000, were in the back. Jones, the brother of former National Football League player C.J. Jones, had just purchased a .38-caliber handgun for protection and had a concealed weapons permit.
Raja spotted Jones’ SUV about 3:15 a.m. He was wearing jeans, a T-shirt and a baseball cap because he was investigating auto burglaries.
Raja drove his unmarked van up the off-ramp, blocking Jones’ SUV.
“I didn’t think there was anybody in there and as I got close to the vehicle the door swung open and this guy jumps out immediately and I got out of the van. And says ‘I’m okay, I’m okay man’.” Raja told Kaprinski at the time.
He said when Jones got out, he identified himself as a police officer, but then fired because Jones pulled a gun.
“I immediately just shouted “drop the gun, drop the gun,” Raja can be heard saying on the video as he appeared to get emotional.
Raja said Jones ran down an embankment and pointed the gun again, so he fired more shots. Jones died at the scene.
“(I said) drop the gun, drop the gun, and then bang, bang, bang and he starts running and I’m chasing him. And I’m calling 911. Hey, this is (unintelligible) I just shot a guy. As he is running, he stops, turns around, looks at me and I (unintelligible) and bang, bang, bang,” Raja told Kaprinski on the video.
Kaprinski said there are discrepancies between the Raja’s statement and the audio.
What Raja didn’t know, according to prosecutors, was that Jones was speaking to a tow truck dispatcher on a recorded line. Raja is never heard identifying himself as a police officer.
Prosecutors say Raja saw Jones throw down his gun but kept firing, which is why he is charged with attempted murder. Investigators were unable to determine when the fatal shot was fired, but it struck Jones in the back.
Raja then used his personal cellphone to call 911 with the operator picking up 33 seconds after the last shot. 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 from the SUV and 125 feet from his unfired gun.
Palm Beach Gardens fired Raja, who was in his employee probation period after transferring there months earlier from a neighboring city. He was charged in 2016 and has been under house arrest.
Raja, who is of South Asian descent, could get a life sentence if convicted of manslaughter and attempted murder.
(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)