Hours after Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw announced the FBI was joining his department’s investigation into the Corey Jones shooting death, a team of more than a dozen PBSO and FBI investigators descended on the site where the 31-year-old drummer was fatally shot by Palm Beach Gardens undercover police officer Nouman Raja.
In an apparent move to seek transparency in the investigation, Bradshaw asked the federal agency to help probe the details surrounding the Oct 18, 3:15 a.m. shooting that occurred after Jones’ Hyundai Santa Fe broke down on the southbound I-95 off-ramp at PGA Boulevard.
» RELATED: Full coverage of Corey Jones shooting
On Saturday morning, FBI agents surveyed the grassy shoulder of the off-ramp. Clad in khaki cargo pants and blue field shirts, some toted metal detectors attached to headphones. They worked slowly and deliberately, scanning the overgrown area, marking specific spots with dozens of small yellow flags. Agents used shovels on various select sites.
Later, the agents were seen sifting some of the shoveled material. PBSO officials on site declined comment. They set up a white canvas tent as a temporary field base, as the task was expected to take many hours.
The son of a minister and grandson of a bishop, Jones was a drummer for the band the Future Prezidents. He was driving home from a performance in Jupiter that early Sunday morning when his SUV experienced mechanical problems. Jones called band mate Mathew Huntsberger for help. Huntsberger says he brought Jones a can of oil, but that didn’t help. He says he left the drummer, who decided to wait for AT&T Roadside Assistance. About 45 minutes later, Jones was dead. What led to the shooting has not be revealed to the public.
Police say Officer Raja was not in uniform when he pulled up in an unmarked Ford van, thinking Jones’ SUV was abandoned. Gardens police say Raja, who wore jeans and a t-shirt, was “suddenly confronted by an armed subject.”
Jones carried a gun, legally purchased just days before the shooting. That gun was found in the grassy area after the shooting. His family’s lawyers say they’ve learned he did not fire the gun.
On Saturday morning, the federal agents scoured that area, attempting to piece together week-old clues. They worked in an area about a half block long and about three dozen feet wide, an long patch of grass separated from the rear parking lot of the Palm Beach Gardens Doubletree Hotel by a green chain-link fence.
Possible objects of their search: bullets and casings from Officer Raja’s gun. Raja fired six shots, hitting Jones three times, according to Jones’ family’s lawyer Benjamin Crump, who was briefed by State Attorney Dave Aronberg.
Aronberg announced Wednesday his office would conduct an independent investigation into the shooting.
Two days later, Sheriff Bradshaw announced he had asked the FBI to join his office’s probe, saying “I welcome their expertise and believe that this will ensure the highest level of scrutiny and impartiality.”
In his Friday statement, Bradshaw, who has been sheriff for 10 years, went on to say: “There have been many lessons learned from the tragic events that have occurred across the United States and there is nothing more important, now, than a comprehensive investigation process so we can ensure justice is served.”
Only once before has Bradshaw requested assistance in probing a police-involved shooting, and that was for the 2012 death of Seth Adams, an unarmed, 24-year-old Loxahatchee Groves man shot to death by a sheriff’s deputy. At Bradshaw’s request, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement reviewed the case. That agency cleared the deputy.
In the Corey Jones inquiry, the FDLE’s assistance was offered by Gov. Rick Scott, but no local agency has accepted the offer.
The case has generated a national cry for justice by the victim’s family, national civil rights advocates and the local community.
“Why does it take [Bradshaw] six days to make that decision,” asked one of the Jones family attorneys, Daryl Parks, of a town hall meeting audience that gathered Friday night at the Tabernacle Missionary Baptist church in West Palm Beach.
Post staff writers Alexandra Seltzer, Lawrence Mower and Julius Whigham II contributed to this report.