Ex-officer sentenced to 25 years in black motorist's killing

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — A former Florida police officer was ordered Thursday to spend 25 years in prison for the fatal on-duty shooting of a black musician whose SUV had broken down after a late-night concert.

Former Palm Beach Gardens officer Nouman Raja was sentenced by Circuit Judge Joseph Marx as family and friends of the 31-year-old victim, Corey Jones, looked on in a courtroom jammed with supporters on both sides. The 41-year-old defendant, shackled and clad in a blue jumpsuit, was the first Florida officer in nearly 30 years to be convicted and sentenced for an on-duty killing — and one of a few nationwide.

Raja was convicted last month of manslaughter and attempted murder in Jones' death. Marx on Thursday imposed a sentence of 25 years on each count, to be served concurrently.

Prosecutors had said Raja had escalated what should have been a routine interaction into a deadly confrontation in 2015 when he encountered Corey, a housing inspector and part-time drummer whose SUV had stalled on a dark highway ramp.

Raja had faced a possible sentencing range from 25 years to life in prison, and both Prosecutor Adrienne Ellis and the father of the victim had urged the judge to impose the maximum.

Previously, Marx has rejected motions by Raja's attorneys to throw out the verdicts. They argued that the evidence didn't support his conviction and that Marx should have instructed jurors to consider whether Raja's use of force was justified under Florida's "stand your ground" law. They plan to appeal.

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George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin 'stand your ground' shooting case
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George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin 'stand your ground' shooting case
ATTENTION: THIS PICTURE HAS BEEN BINNED, DO NOT USE An undated handout photo released by the Martin family public relations representative shows 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. Martin was shot and killed as he walked through a gated neighborhood, where he was visiting family in Sanford, Florida on February 26, 2012. Neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman said he shot Martin in self-defense and Sanford police have not charged Zimmerman. Federal authorities said on March 18, 2012 they were in contact with local police investigating the killing. REUTERS/Handout (UNITED STATES - Tags: CRIME LAW) THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS
George Zimmerman leaves the courtroom a free man after being found not guilty in the 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin at the Seminole County Criminal Justice Center in Sanford, Florida, July 13, 2013. Zimmerman was acquitted of all charges on Saturday for the fatal shooting of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin in this central Florida town in February of last year. REUTERS/Joe Burbank/Pool (UNITED STATES - Tags: CRIME LAW TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)
SANFORD, FL - JUNE 25: Diana Smith, crime scene technician for the Sanford Police Department, shows the jury a bag of Skittles that was collected as evidence at the crime scene, during George Zimmerman's trial in Seminole circuit court June 25, 2013 in Sanford, Florida. Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder for the February 2012 shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. (Photo by Gary W. Green-Pool/Getty Images)
Sanford police officer Timothy Smith holds up the gun that was used to kill Trayvon Martin, while testifying during George Zimmerman's murder trial in Seminole circuit court in Sanford, Florida, June 28, 2013. REUTERS/Joe Burbank/Pool/File Photo
SANFORD, FL- MARCH 20: Raphael Cuevas (L) and Jashua Castro stop at a memorial to Trayvon Martin outside The Retreat at Twin Lakes community where Trayvon was shot by George Michael Zimmerman while on Neighborhood Watch patrol March 20, 2012 in Sanford, Florida. Zimmerman's claim of shooting the teen in self defense has been questioned by community leaders. (Photo by Roberto Gonzalez/Getty Images)
SANFORD, FL - JUNE 3: In this handout composite provided by the Seminole County Sheriff's Office, George Zimmerman poses for a mugshot photo following his surrender to authorities at John E. Polk Correctional Facility (JEPCF) after he had his bond was revoked because of allegedly misleading the court about his finances June 3, 2012 in Sanford, Florida. George Zimmerman who claims he was acting in self defense has been charged with the murder of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin. (Photo by Seminole County Sheriff's Office via Getty Images)
ATTENTION: THIS PICTURE HAS BEEN BINNED, DO NOT USE An undated handout photo released by the Martin family public relations representative shows 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. Martin was shot and killed as he walked through a gated neighborhood, where he was visiting family in Sanford, Florida on February 26, 2012. Neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman said he shot Martin in self-defense and Sanford police have not charged Zimmerman. Federal authorities said on March 18, 2012 they were in contact with local police investigating the killing. REUTERS/Handout (UNITED STATES - Tags: CRIME LAW) THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS
Boys hold images of slain Florida teen Trayvon Martin while standing amid the arms of their mother, at a protest called A Million Hoodies March, to demand justice for Martin's killing in New York's Union Square March 21, 2012. Martin, 17, wore a hooded sweatshirt when he was killed last month in a gated community in Sanford, Florida, by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman. The incident has drawn national attention and sparked debate over Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law since Zimmerman, 28, has claimed self-defense in the fatal shooting. The police have declined to arrest him. REUTERS/Adrees Latif (United States - Tags: CIVIL UNREST CRIME LAW)
Freddie Muse holds a sign at a rally to call for justice in the murder of Trayvon Martin at Leimert Park in Los Angeles, California, March 22, 2012. Florida Governor Rick Scott appointed a task force on Thursday to investigate the shooting death of unarmed black teenager Martin as calls grew for charges to be filed against George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer who killed him. Also, the state prosecutor who had been handling the investigation will step aside from the probe, Scott said in a statement. REUTERS/Jonathan Alcorn (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST CRIME LAW)
The handgun used in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin is seen this handout photo provided by the State Attorney's Office on May 17, 2012. Hundreds of pages of case documents were released in connection with the Feb. 26 shooting that triggered civil rights protests as well as a debate over guns, self-defense laws and race relations in America. George Zimmerman has pleaded not guilty to a second-degree murder charge and says he killed Martin in self-defense. REUTERS/State Attorney's Office/Handout (UNITED STATES - Tags: CRIME LAW TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY) FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS
Trina Harrison and her husband, Rick Harrison, participate in a rally preceding a Million Hoodies March to protest the failure of police to arrest a Florida neighborhood watch volunteer for shooting to death an unarmed black teenager, Trayvon Martin, in Los Angeles, California, March 26, 2012. George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch captain, told police he fatally shot Martin after the teenager punched him, knocked him down and slammed his head into the ground, the Orlando Sentinel reported on Monday. The February 26 killing of the black teenager as he walked through a gated community by Zimmerman, a white Hispanic, has triggered protests around the country and calls for Zimmerman's arrest. The March 26 protest coincides with another march led by Martin's family in Florida. REUTERS/David McNew (UNITED STATES - Tags: CIVIL UNREST CRIME LAW TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)
George Zimmerman's head is inspected by an officer inside a police station in Sanford, Florida, in this frame grab taken from police video dated February 26, 2012. The neighborhood watch volunteer who shot dead an unarmed black teenager in Florida appeared uninjured when he was brought into the police station on the night of the shooting, according to a video released by the Sanford police department. Zimmerman told police he shot Trayvon Martin inside a gated community on Feb. 26 in self-defense after Martin attacked him and repeatedly bashed his head into a concrete walkway. REUTERS/Sanford Police Department/Handout (UNITED STATES - Tags: CRIME LAW MEDIA TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY) FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS
Gwen Lawrence, of Sanford, Florida, mourns during a candlelight vigil for Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida, March 25, 2012. Martin, 17, was shot dead on February 26 after George Zimmerman, 28, a Hispanic neighborhood watch captain, believed the young man walking through the gated community in a hoodie looked suspicious. Zimmerman followed him and an altercation ensued. Zimmerman has said he was acting in self-defense. He has not been arrested, though state and federal authorities are investigating. REUTERS/David Manning (UNITED STATES - Tags: CRIME LAW TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)
A man holds a cardboard cut-out of slain Florida teenager Trayvon Martin as demonstrators march through the streets of New York, April 10, 2012, demanding justice for his death. Martin was shot and killed by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman on February 26, saying it was in self-defense. A mural of musician Gil Scott-Heron is seen in the background. REUTERS/Adrees Latif (UNITED STATES - Tags: CIVIL UNREST TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)
George Zimmerman appears for a bond hearing at the Seminole County Criminal Justice Center in Sanford, Florida, June 29, 2012. Zimmerman, 28, is charged with second-degree murder for the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin on February 26 in Sanford, Florida. REUTERS/Joe Burbank/Pool (UNITED STATES - Tags: CRIME LAW TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)
Camille Quinones Miller holds a placard as she chants slogans during a march to protest the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the killing of Florida teen Trayvon Martin in Beverly Hills, California July 17, 2013. Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, was acquitted of second-degree murder and manslaughter in the February 2012 shooting of 17-year-old Martin. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni (UNITED STATES - Tags: CRIME LAW CIVIL UNREST TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)
Irene Renee holds up a sign as her son Zavier bows his head while they attend a rally for Trayvon Martin in New York July 20, 2013. Trayvon Martin's parents joined celebrities and hundreds of protesters on Saturday in rallies across the country to express anger over the acquittal of George Zimmerman, the man who shot and killed the unarmed black teenager. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri (UNITED STATES - Tags: CIVIL UNREST CRIME LAW TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)
SANFORD, FL - JULY 8: The Father of Trayvon Martin, Tracy Martin, testifies as a defense witness in George Zimmerman trial in Seminole circuit court, July 8, 2013 in Sanford, Florida. Zimmerman has been charged with second-degree murder for the 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin. (Photo by Joe Burbank-Pool/Getty Images)
SANFORD, FL - JULY 9: Dr. Vincent DiMaio, a forensic pathologist and gunshot wound expert, describes the injuries of George Zimmerman while testifying for the defense in the trial in Seminole circuit court, July 9, 2013 in Sanford, Florida. Zimmerman has been charged with second-degree murder for the 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin. (Photo by Joe Burbank-Pool/Getty Images)
SANFORD, FL - JULY 12: Beezy Dinkins demonstrates outside the Seminole County Criminal Justice Center where today jurors began deliberating in the trial of neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman on July 12, 2013 in Sanford, Florida. Zimmerman is on trial for the February 2012 shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
SANFORD, FL - JUNE 25: Assistant state attorneys John Guy (R) and Richard Mantei hold up Trayvon Martin's hoodie as evidence during George Zimmerman's trial in Seminole circuit court June 25, 2013 in Sanford, Florida. Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder for the February 2012 shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. (Photo by Gary W. Green-Pool/Getty Images)
SANFORD, FL - JUNE 24: George Zimmerman waits for his defense counsel to arrive in Seminole circuit court, on the 11th day of his trial June 24, 2013 in Sanford, Florida. Today prosecutors began with their opening statements. Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder for the February 2012 shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. (Photo by Joe Burbank-Pool/Getty Images)
SANFORD, FL - JUNE 27: Witness Rachel Jeantel (R) continues her testimony to defense attorney Don West on during George Zimmerman's murder trial June 27, 2013 in Sanford, Florida. Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder for the February 2012 shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. (Photo by Jacob Langston-Pool/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 20: Protesters take part in a 'Justice for Trayvon' vigil outside Los Angeles Federal Courthouse July 20, 2013 in Los Angeles, United States. The vigil, along with others held nationwide, was organized by the National Action Network and called for federal charges to be filed against George Zimmerman in the shooting death of teenager Trayvon Martin. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 20: A woman holds a sign as she attends a rally honoring Trayvon Martin organized by the National Action Network outside One Police Plaza in Manhattan on July 20, 2013 in New York City. Demonstrators have gathered in various cities across the country to protest the acquittal of neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman and press for his federal prosecution in the shooting death of teenager Trayvon Martin. (Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images)
SANFORD, FL - NOVEMBER 19: George Zimmerman, the acquitted shooter in the death of Trayvon Martin, listens to defense counsel Daniel Megaro (L) during a first-appearance hearing on charges including aggravated assault stemming from a fight with his girlfriend November 19, 2013 in Sanford, Florida. Zimmerman, 30, was arrested after police responded to a domestic disturbance call at a house. He was acquitted in July of all charges in the shooting death of unarmed, black teenager, Trayvon Martin. (Photo by Joe Burbank-Pool/Getty Images)
Seminole County Sheriff's Office booking photo shows George Zimmerman who was arrested on January 9, 2015 and charged with aggravated assault by Lake Mary Police Department, Florida in this image released on January 10, 2015. George Zimmerman, the former neighborhood watch volunteer acquitted in a fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager in 2013, was arrested in connection with a domestic disturbance in central Florida, authorities said on Saturday. REUTERS/Seminole County Sheriff's Office/Handout (UNITED STATES - Tags: CRIME LAW HEADSHOT) FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS
SANFORD, FL - MARCH 24: Members of the New Black Panther Party rally next to a memorial to Trayvon Martin outside The Retreat at Twin Lakes community where Trayvon was shot and killed by George Michael Zimmerman while on neighborhood watch patrol March 24, 2012 in Sanford, Florida. The New Black Panther party said it is calling for a mobilization of black men to search for and arrest George Zimmerman. The organization has offered a $10,000 bounty for Zimmerman's capture. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
SANFORD, FL - MARCH 25: Young supporters gather during a candelight vigil at a memorial to Trayvon Martin outside The Retreat at Twin Lakes community where Trayvon was shot and killed by George Michael Zimmerman while on neighborhood watch patrol on March 25, 2012 in Sanford, Florida. Participants planted a cross at the site to honor Martin. Rev. Jesse Jackson will lead a march in Sanford tomorrow. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
SANFORD, FL - MARCH 31: A Trayvon Martin supporter displays her sign during a march through the historically African American community of Goldsboro on their way to a rally in front of the Sanford Police Department on March 31, 2012 in Sanford, Florida. Martin was killed by George Michael Zimmerman while on neighborhood watch patrol in the gated community of The Retreat at Twin Lakes. Rev. Jesse Jackson, Rev. Al Sharpton and NAACP President Benjamin Jealous were amongst the supporters demanding Zimmerman's arrest. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 10: Protesters sign a portrait of Trayvon Martin at a demonstration on April 10, 2012 in New York City. Lawyers for George Zimmerman said Tuesday they were withdrawing as his legal representatives. Zimmerman, a self-appointed neighborhood watch captain, shot and killed the unarmed Martin in Sanford, Florida on February 26. Protesters nationwide have called for Zimmerman's arrest since the shooting. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
FILE PHOTO -- George Zimmerman listens to the judge during his first-appearance hearing in Sanford, Florida November 19, 2013. A central Florida judge freed Zimmerman on $9,000 bond on Tuesday and forbade him from possessing weapons or ammunition on charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and domestic violence during a dispute with his girlfriend. REUTERS/Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel/Pool/File Photo
MIAMI GARDENS, FL - APRIL 15: Sybrina Fulton , the mother of Trayvon Martin who was killed by George Zimmerman, is hugged as her other son, Jahvaris Fulton, looks on as they attend a service at the Antioch Missionary Baptist Church for the first time since the arrest of Zimmerman on April 15, 2012 in Miami Gardens, Florida. Martin was killed by George Zimmerman on February 26th while Zimmerman was on neighborhood watch patrol in the gated community of The Retreat at Twin Lakes, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 11: Parents of Trayvon Martin who was fatally shot by neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman in Florida, mother Sybrina Fulton (R) and Tracy Martin watch a news conference with special prosecutor Angela Corey in Sanford, Fla., announcing charges against George Zimmerman April 11, 2012 in Washington, DC. It has been reported that Zimmerman will be charged in the Trayvon Martin shooting according to Florida special prosecutor Angela Corey. (Photo by Evan Vucci-Pool/Getty Images)
JACKSONVILLE, FL - APRIL 11: State Attorney Angela Corey holds a news conference to announce second degree murder charges to be brought against defendant George Zimmerman in the Trayvon Martin shooting April 11, 2012 in Jacksonville,Florida. Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer fatally shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin within a gated community in Sanford, Florida February 26, but was not charged with any crime at the time due to Florida's 'Stand Your Ground' self-defense law. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
SANFORD, FL- APRIL 6: A memorial for Trayvon Martin, near where he was shot, continues to be a gathering place for prayer on April 6, 2012 in Sanford, Florida. Martin was killed by George Michael Zimmerman who was on neighborhood watch patrol in the gated community of The Retreat at Twin Lakes. (Photo by Roberto Gonzalez/Getty IMages)
MIAMI, FL - APRIL 01: Mohawk Gaz wears a picture of Trayvon Martin in his hair as he and other supporters gather for a rally in his honor at the Bayfront Amphitheater on April 1, 2012 in Miami, Florida. Martin was killed by George Michael Zimmerman who was on neighborhood watch patrol in the gated community of The Retreat at Twin Lakes, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
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At Thursday's sentencing hearing, Clinton Jones Sr. told the judge he still has his son's number programmed into his cell because he can't stand the finality of deleting it. He said he wanted Raja to get a life sentence, not out of hatred but because of the pain he had caused the Jones family.

"It was painful for us to go through this because I knew the kind of son we had raised," Jones said.

Raja, of Asian descent, was in plain clothes as part of an auto burglary investigation team when he spotted Jones' SUV at 3:15 a.m. Oct. 18, 2015. Jones was returning home from a nightclub performance by his reggae band when his vehicle stalled. He had a concealed-weapons permit and carried a handgun, purchased days earlier to protect his $10,000 drum set, which was in the SUV.

Raja, wearing jeans, a T-shirt and a baseball cap, drove an unmarked van the wrong way up an off ramp and stopped a few feet from the broken-down vehicle.

Prosecutors said Raja never identified himself as an officer and acted so aggressively that Jones must have thought he was about to be carjacked or killed. Raja's supervisor testified the officer had been told to don a police vest if he approached a civilian. He didn't. Prosecutors also questioned why Raja didn't pull his badge from his pocket.

What police didn't know at first was that Jones had been talking to a tow-truck dispatcher on a recorded line. That recording shows Jones saying "Huh?" as his door opens. Raja yells, "You good?" Jones says he is. Raja replies twice, "Really?" with Jones replying "Yeah."

Suddenly, Raja shouts at Jones to raise his hands, using an expletive. Jones replies, "Hold on!" and Raja repeats his demand.

Prosecutors believe Jones pulled his gun and tried to get away. Raja fired three shots; Jones ran down an embankment. Prosecutors said he threw his gun, but Raja fired three more times, 10 seconds after the first volley. Jones was killed by a bullet through his heart.

Prosecutors said Raja, not knowing of the tow-truck dispatcher recording, tried to deceive investigators. He claimed he said "Police, can I help you?" as Jones jumped from the SUV. He also told them Jones leapt backward and pointed his gun, forcing him to fire. Raja said Jones ran but turned and again pointed his gun, forcing him to fire the second volley.

Prosecutors charged Raja with manslaughter, saying his actions created the confrontation and showed "culpable negligence." They also charged him with attempted murder, saying that although they couldn't prove beyond a reasonable doubt which of Raja's six shots killed Jones, the second volley was a conscious effort to kill him as he fled.

The last Florida officer sentenced for an on-duty killing was Miami's William Lozano in 1989. The Hispanic officer fatally shot a black motorcyclist who he said tried to hit him. A passenger died when the motorcycle crashed, setting off three days of rioting.

Lozano was convicted of two manslaughter counts in a Miami trial and sentenced to seven years, but he never served it. State appellate court justices dismissed the verdict, saying the case should have been moved from Miami because of racial tensions. Lozano was acquitted at a 1993 retrial.

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