In one video from the morning of Oct. 18, 2015, Raja gave profanity-laced statements to investigators in which he insisted, repeatedly, that he was threatened at gunpoint and killed Jones in self-defense next to the highway off-ramp.
As this evidence was presented in court, Raja became noticeably upset, dropping his head at the defense table. He wiped his eyes and nose, and was comforted by lead attorney Richard Lubin, who put a hand on Raja’s shoulder.
Jurors for the second straight day then listened to prosecutors’ critical evidence in the manslaughter and attempted murder case: an audio recording of Jones’ call for roadside assistance. They contend it proves Raja lied both to detectives on the video, and to a 911 operator 30 seconds after the 3:15 a.m. shooting of the reggae band drummer.
Unbeknownst to Raja at the time, the audio recovered by investigators days later captured sounds of the encounter and all six shots from Raja’s gun, testified Sgt. Chris Karpinski with the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office.
The key discrepancy between Raja’s statements and the tow truck call audio is Raja’s claim that he identified himself to Jones as a cop, which is not heard on the audio recording, prosecutors say. The defense said Raja still announced himself as an officer and it just wasn’t captured on tape.
“I said, ‘Hey, man, police, can I help you?’ and that’s when he … jumped back and pointed the gun at me,” Raja told the investigators, raising his arm and closing his fist during the re-enactment.
About three minutes later on the video, Raja, waving his hands for emphasis, insisted again, “I identified myself as a police officer … and this guy’s tryin’ to kill me and I was, and I, I didn’t wanna die.”
In the video with investigators, Raja appears just as he looked during the shooting: wearing an inside-out untucked tan T-shirt, light blue jeans, black and gray sneakers and a tan ballcap with the Caterpillar bulldozer company logo.
Raja, who was on a plainclothes car burglary patrol that night, left his tactical vest, police radio and department-issued gun in his unmarked white van when, still carrying his personal Glock pistol, he came toward the 31-year-old musician with the disabled Hyundai Santa Fe, according to court testimony.
When the jurors watched another video of the shooting location that showed the body of Jones in the grass, a few of his close family members walked out of the courtroom in tears.
Also on the ground: Jones’ unused gun, which prosecutors said he reasonably grabbed when Raja aggressively approached him. Prosecutors showed jurors dozens of photos from the scene, including close-ups of the victim, and Jones’ prized drum kit still in the rear of his SUV.
When the trial opened Tuesday, prosecutor Brian Fernandes called Raja a “reckless killer” and an “angel of death” who “at no time acted like a law enforcement officer” should in helping citizens.
In response, Raja attorney Scott Richardson told the jury that Raja “had every right to defend himself” when he saw a gun pointed toward him, and the case is based on “Monday morning quarterbacking.”
“I announced myself as the police,” Raja said in his statement. “Why the f— is this guy pointing a gun at me? What the f—, like?”
Raja, 41, was fired less than a month after the shooting. But the county’s police union, which supports Raja and is paying his lofty legal bills, won’t allow its members to do any more video walk-through statements about on-duty shootings because Raja was charged with felonies.
Before Raja, there hasn’t been another cop on trial here for a fatal shooting in the past 25 years.
Both prosecutors and Raja’s lawyers agreed there would be value in the six jurors and four alternates taking a trip together to see where the shooting took place at the southbound Interstate 95 off-ramp at PGA Boulevard. But Circuit Judge Joseph Marx on Wednesday denied the request, saying that he’ll keep an open mind about it as the trial continues over the next week.
Prosecutors told the judge they could complete the presentation of their case on Monday.