In an emotional press conference early Thursday, Corey Jones’ father, brother and sister reacted publicly to news that Palm Beach County state attorney Dave Aronberg will be bringing to a grand jury the case of the Palm Beach Gardens officer who shot and killed Jones last year.
The 31-year-old drummer’s father, Clinton Jones, Sr., told a group of reporters that he was holding Aronberg to assurances the top prosecutor gave him at a meeting Wednesday after announcing Nouman Raja’s case would be presented as part of the grand jury session that began in January and will end June 30. The father said Aronberg told him he believed the widely-criticized process would produce a just outcome in this case.
“It’s been a hard six months of waiting, waiting and waiting,” He was a good kid, and for something like this to have happened to him, I’m angry. I’m angry. It should never have happened.”
» RELATED: Timeline of the Corey Jones shooting
If the panel returns an indictment of any kind against Raja, it will be a switch from the outcome of grand juries that have weighed the cases of Tamir Rice, Eric Garner and Michael Brown – young black men killed in confrontations with police officers who were later cleared of wrongdoing.
Family Attorney Benjamin Crump told reporters that while Jones’ case is going to the grand jury, the process is one that is still very much in prosecutors’ control, saying that “99.99999 percent of the time” a grand jury returns an indictment when a prosecutor wants one.
Though Aronberg told Jones’ family he would be involved in the grand jury process, two of his Chief Assistants, Brian Fernandes and Adrienne Ellis, will be the ones presenting evidence to the panel.
Jones’ sister, Melissa, said she was skeptical about the case going to a grand jury until the moment in their meeting with prosecutors where Ellis looked her in the eye and told her that she has a passion to pursue justice in the case.
“She said that without me asking,” Melissa Jones said. “And when I heard that, I said that’s what I needed to hear.”
Crump told reporters on Thursday details of the case he revealed exclusively to The Palm Beach Post late Wednesday, including the confirmation of the existence of an audio recording of the shooting. The recording was from a call Jones to AT&T Roadside Assistance minutes before Raja approached him in an unmarked van.
The call lasted 53 minutes, long enough to have potentially captured the confrontation, shooting and its aftermath.
As of Wednesday, Crump said, Jones’ family knew of two other important details based on their meetings with prosecutors.
First, although Crump stopped short of confirming that prosecutors told them that Raja claimed Jones shot at him, Crump said “we know that there were inconsistent statements made.”
“Hypothetically, if the allegation was that Corey Jones shot at him, we now know that is a bald-faced lie,” Crump said.
Secondly, Crump said, the family knows that Raja committed policy violations in the Oct. 18 shooting, when he approached Jones in plainclothes in an unmarked van as the drummer waited for a tow truck in the off-ramp of Interstate 95.
Despite prosecutors assurances, Crump – who has previously represented the family of slain teen Trayvon Martin – said on Wednesday that he would have been much more optimistic if Aronberg had exercised his power to file charges directly against Raja.
Raja’s attorney, Richard Lubin, said in a brief statement Wednesday that he and his client were “looking forward” to the grand jury process.
Jones’ brother, former NFL wide receiver Clinton “CJ” Jones, had hoped Aronberg would have directly filed charges against Raja. Absent that possibility, he said Thursday, his desire was simple:
“If (the officer) did something wrong, we just want him to pay consequences,” he said.
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer Lulu Ramadan contributed to this report.