The official Palm Beach Gardens Police Statement reads, in part,
It was an easily preventable death.
While there are many qquestions that may never been asnwered - if they even are asked - this death never should have happened, especially at the hands of a supposedly experienced police officer.
Florida drivers, as are drivers elsewhere, are told that when they are being followed by even a marked vehicle to continue to a lighted area before pulling over.
The cops know this; they are the ones who tell us.
Because there have been too many "incidents" when cops or people pretending to be cops have taken advantage of a marked car, a uniform, a blue light, cops HAVE to know approaching a vehicle is dangerous.
In this case, Jones' vehicle apparenly broke down and Jones was sitting in the vehicle. Had he called someone to come to his aid? A relative? A towing company? The local or county cops? (Would 9-1-1 have taken the call and forwarded it to an appropriate agency?)
Hind sight is wonderful. I wonder if I would have made a call.
In an unmarked car - his or a department vehicle. Unknown.
Out of uniform - in a plain clothes role or on his way home. Unknown.
Apparently Raja got out of his vehicle and, again, "apparently" was heading toward Jones.
Jones, seeing someone approaching - and by all accounts NOT knowing Raja was a cop, got out of his broken down vehicleo with his gun in hand. It was a legally purchased and owned firearm. Jones allegedly bought the firearm for protection in his job as a Delray Beach Housing Authority employee .
What SHOULD have happened
If Raja was in a police vehicle, he should have called for a marked vehicle with a unifomed officer to join him BEFORE approaching Jones' vehicle.
This would make sense in any event since Jones' vehicle was on/near the traveled roadway; it needed to be protected from other cars and towed to a safe location.
If Raja was in his provate vehicle - sans police radio - he should have used his cell phone - are there any cops who lack a cell phone? - to contact the Palm Beach Gardens PD dispatcher to send a marked vehicle with a uniformed officer to the scene.
According to all accounts available today, Jones did not exit his vehicle until Raja exited his vehicle. Jones might have been nervous and he may have had his weapon in hand, but as long as Raja was in his vehicle, Jones was safe.
While Raja should have been calling for backup, Jones should have called 9-1-1 and reported a strange vehicle parked behind him and that he feared for his safety. All but the most obtuse 9-1-1 dispatcher would have immediately acted on Jones' call - how much 9-1-1 activity was there at 3 a.m.?
Appearently neither of those things happened.
IN ORDER TO PREVENT a recurrance of this tragedy, police departments need to put procedures into place so that an officer in a similar situation WILL contact the department dispatcher - either by radio or phone - and ask for a marked vehicle with uniformed occupants to join the officer at the scene. The plain clothes officer in the unmarked vehicle will remain in the vehicle until backup arrives.
My #1 Son is a cop and I worry for him. He did NOT vet this blog entry.
Like Jones, I also have a legal firearm and I probably would have acted the same way Jones acted, except I doubt I would gotten out of my car. In truth, I probably would not remain in a broken down vehicle while waiting for help; there is too great a risk of another vehicle colliding with mine.
Wasted: a young man's life and an officer's career.