Consider this scenario:  You’re driving your Toyota van home on an interstate highway at 3:00 AM just having come from a musical engagement at a nearby restaurant.  You have several thousand dollars worth of musical instruments and sound system components in the back.  The van has a mechanical problem, you pull over to the side of the deserted highway.   A short time later a car pulls up behind you, a man gets out and you think “Has he stopped to help me?  Is he up to no good?”  Nothing identifies either the car, it is a black sedan, nor the man as anything other than some random motorist pulling his car up behind your stranded van.  You are nervous.  Stories of late night robberies and death at the hands of roving gangs or a serial killer run through your mind.  You are scared.  What do you do? 

This is the real life scenario that played out in the early morning for Corey Jones, a young 31 year old musician, on Interstate 95 near West Palm Beach, Florida just a week ago on October 18th.   Corey was no drug dealer, no gang banger, no petty thief.  He had no criminal record.   In fact this 31 year old man worked at the Delray Beach Housing Authority, played at his Boynton Beach church, and had regular gigs in this Palm Beach County area of South Florida.  But Corey Jones wound up dead that dark, early morning at the hands of Palm Beach Gardens Police Officer, Nouman Raja.

Thing is, Officer Raja was driving an unmarked vehicle.  Thing is, Officer Raja was not in uniform.  What then, would have distinguished him from some random guy out to rob or shoot Corey in the early morning hours on a deserted Interstate highway off-ramp?

Thing is, Corey was armed.  With a gun legally obtained and legally licensed.  Thing is, Corey also had a legally obtained concealed weapons permit. 

So I ask you? What would you have done under the same circumstances?

But here’s the conundrum in this case.  Florida, as we all remember from the killing of Trayvon Martin at the hands of George Zimmerman back in 2012 – a tragedy that took the nation by storm - has a “stand your ground law” essentially authorizing ordinary citizens to use deadly force when we believe our lives are threatened.     Corey was stranded on a highway.  At 3:00 AM.  He was alone waiting, in fact, for a tow truck.  He had thousands of dollars of valuable equipment in the back of his van.  An unidentifiable vehicle pulled up behind him.  An unidentifiable man got out of the vehicle and approached him.   Corey was armed. 

What would you have done? 

Thing is, Corey was hit by three bullets (out of six according to Raja) and his body was found some 80 to 100 feet from his van.  Was Corey Jones attempting to flee what he saw as an armed robber?  Who knows?  We will never know.  Corey Jones is dead. 

Of course, the Palm Beach Gardens Police Department will claim that the death of Corey Jones at the hands of Nouman Raja was justified.  And, of course, there will be no IPhone-6 video of the events leading up to Corey’s death and only Raja’s version of the events that took place that dark morning of October 18th will be known.  But just like the case of Trayvon Martin who was unarmed that fateful evening when George Zimmerman took it upon himself to play neighborhood avenger, the case of Corey Jones shines a light on the foolishness and potential deadliness of open carry, concealed carry and stand your ground laws so popular around the country today. 
Thing is, I know this part of Florida very well. My cousin and best friend has lived in Boynton Beach (where Corey's church is located) for a couple of decades.  

Thing is, I know this stretch of Interstate 95 and its reputation for police chases, drug deals on its ramps, bump and snatch and carjackings all too well.  What would I have done?  Not sure.  But I'm pretty damned sure that I know what Corey Jones did.  He was afraid for his life.  And he responded.    

I’ve often joked that with the arming of every American citizen we are being encouraged to settle disputes over stolen parking spaces and titty bar insults directed at girlfriends by whipping out our Glock- 9’s or our Smith and Wesson M&P SHIELDS and shooting away.  But it’s no joke.  It’s a deadly business that has no good ending. 

As Police Forces around the country seem to be reacting to the latest spate of publicity surrounding un-justified police shootings, demands for body cameras and calls for cataloging deaths at the hands of police officers by cutting back on their jobs (crime rates have spiked in many American cities – including my hometown of Washington, D.C.)  the death of Corey Jones reminds us why more guns only lead to more deaths, not fewer. 

An article in today’s Washington Post provides more details of the death of Corey Jones. 



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