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Church Drummer, Corey Jones, Killed by Plainclothes Florida Police Officer

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By Carlos Harrison and Wesley Lowery, The Washington Post

 

Stranded on a highway off-ramp at 3 a.m., waiting for a tow truck, Corey Jones was armed with a brand-new pistol and a state-issued concealed-carry permit that entitled him to take the gun wherever he pleased.

 

Enter Palm Beach Gardens police officer Nouman Raja, wearing civilian clothes and driving an unmarked van. He pulled up to Jones’s vehicle, thinking it was abandoned.

 

Minutes later, Jones, 31, was dead.

 

Police say Raja opened fire after Jones confronted him with a gun. But under Florida’s expansive gun laws, Jones may have been entirely within his rights to brandish his weapon, legal experts say — especially if reports that Raja never displayed his badge are true.

 

The shooting has raised troubling questions about the rules of engagement when a legally armed motorist faces a police officer out of uniform late at night on a lonely road. And those rules could get even trickier, experts say, if Florida lawmakers approve a pending measure to permit people with concealed-carry permits to openly display their weapons.

 

“The police are nervous as it is,” said Roy Black, a prominent Florida attorney who has represented more than 100 police officers in use-of-force cases.

 

“The horror” of the Jones shooting, Black said, is that “both men could have been acting perfectly legally and it still ended up in tragedy.”

 

State officials are investigating the Oct. 18 shooting, as is the Palm Beach County sheriff. Few details have been released, and Jones’s family is demanding answers. They have hired a stable of attorneys, including Benjamin Crump, the Florida lawyer who represents the family of slain Ferguson, Mo., teen Michael Brown and slain Florida teen Trayvon Martin.

 

Last week, Jones’s family held a news conference on the steps of the Palm Beach County Courthouse. “I raised my children to be respectable and to respect the law. I always tell them to stay humble,” his father, Clinton Jones Sr., tearfully told reporters. “Today, I need some answers. I need to know why. Why my son is gone today.”

 

Though Corey Jones was black and the officer who shot him was not, his brother, Clinton Jones Jr., urged reporters not to view the shooting as “a black thing.”

 

“My brother did not see color. I don’t see color,” he said, noting that his wife is white. “So, no disrespect to Black Lives Matter: All lives matter.”

 

Jones, who had no criminal record, came from a large family in the Palm Beach area. Several of his relatives are members of the clergy. Corey worked as an assistant manager at the Delray Beach Housing Authority, relatives said, but his passion was drumming. He played at his church in Boynton Beach and with a local reggae band known as the Future Prezidents.

 

Playing with the band, Crump said, meant Jones often drove around with cash and “thousands of dollars worth of equipment.” More than two years ago, he began carrying a gun for protection.

 

Crump said that Jones had obtained a concealed-weapons permit and that he bought a new pistol.

 

Jones was headed home from a gig, driving south on Interstate 95, when his car broke down in Palm Beach Gardens.

 

About 1:45 a.m., Jones pulled off the highway and called the band’s bassist, Mathew Huntsberger, asking him to bring oil. When that didn’t help, the two men pushed the SUV to the side of the road, and Jones called for a tow truck. Huntsberger drove home, knowing the tow truck was on its way.

 

About 3:15 a.m., police said, Raja stopped his unmarked van near Jones’s SUV “to investigate what he believed to be an abandoned vehicle.” Raja then was “suddenly confronted by an armed subject” and opened fire, police said.

 

Police found Jones’s gun lying on the ground, unfired.

 

Crump said the family was also told that Raja never showed his badge.

 

“We believe Corey went to his grave not knowing if this was a real cop,” Crump said. “Why didn’t he identify himself? Why didn’t he show the badge? He rode up on him in an unmarked white van with tinted windows. He doesn’t know if he’s about to be mugged, if he’s about to be robbed, if he’s about to be killed.”

 

The FBI has joined the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office investigation into the shooting death of Jones.

 

At a rally held by Rivera Beach Mayor and Bishop Thomas Masters on Monday, the mayor announced that he, several elected officials and members of the African American community are also calling for a special prosecutor to investigate Jones’s death.

Community

Gov. Newsom Joins Assemblyman, Others in Renewed Fight Against Shoplifting

Newsom disputes the current wave of retail theft issue is related to Prop. 47, claiming that the measure is an “easy scapegoat” for people who are against criminal justice reform.

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Press conference: Assembly member Reginald Byron Jones-Sawyer, Sr. (D-Los Angeles) stands with Gov. Gavin Newsom to sign AB 331.

Gov. Gavin Newsom joined top law enforcement officials, state lawmakers and local officials in Los Angeles County on July 21 for a press conference to discuss rising violence and retail theft in California.

“Among the most basic needs for all Californians is to feel safe at home, at the park or walking to school,” Newsom said. “As we pursue nation-leading criminal justice reforms – all with an eye to making our communities safer – a more holistic approach is called for. We must invest in public safety while, at the same time, tackling the root causes of these increases.”

Newsom also promoted his efforts to try to deter gun violence, including mental health services and after-school programs.

“We need to see more accountability, we need to see enforcement and we need a commensurate commitment to address the reforms that I think many of us behind me embrace and have long embraced in California that have proven successful in this state,” Newsom said.

At the press conference, Newsom signed Assembly Bill (AB) 331, which includes measures designed to crack down on organized retail theft by expanding the California Highway Patrol’s shoplifting task force.

According to Newsom, the task force conducted nearly 700 investigations which have led to 252 arrests and the recovery of $16.3 million in merchandise statewide since 2019.

The signing of this bill occurs as incidences of organized retail theft is rising in California’s major metropolitan areas.

Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles), the author of AB 331, spoke briefly about how it came about.

“We want to make sure we actually went after the organized retail theft felons who were victimizing not the only the people that they got involved in this but also victimizing our businesses and retails,” he said.

“This governor has also put in billions of dollars to make sure that those individuals can move into services such as drug rehab, education and employment so that they can permanently, permanently, get out of organized retail theft because that’s the ultimate goal here,” Jones-Sawyer continued.

Newsom acknowledged the growing public concern.

“Bottom line, at the end of the day, as members of the public you expect us to resolve, to address these issues,” he said.

“You expect all of us, regardless of your political stripes, regardless of geography, you expect all of us to respect you, you expect to feel some kind of connection to your community and you all expect, appropriately so, to be protected,” Newsom also said.

Some retailers and lawmakers believe that Proposition 47, a ballot measure California voters approved in 2014 that raised the minimum dollar amount for felony shoplifting from $450 to $950, is partially to blame for the spike in retail theft.  The measure reclassified many of the state’s nonviolent offenses from felonies to misdemeanors.

One critic is Sen. Melissa Melendez (R-Lake Elsinore) who suggested Newsom’s signing this bill was political theater to make up for Prop. 47 and avoid a recall.

“In typical Newsom fashion, the Governor is patting himself on the back for attempting to fix a problem he not only breathlessly endorsed, but helped create,” tweeted Melendez on Wednesday, July 21.

Newsom disputes the current wave of retail theft issue is related to Prop. 47, claiming that the measure is an “easy scapegoat” for people who are against criminal justice reform.

“The evidence doesn’t back it up. The last three decades we’ve actually seen a significant decline in crime in the state. You’re seeing crime increase in red states that have no criminal reform,” Newsom told Fox News 11 in Los Angeles.

Newsom’s statement  is backed up by U.S. Department of Justice data that concludes “laws and policies designed to deter crime by focusing mainly on increasing the severity of punishment are ineffective partly because criminals know little about the sanctions for specific crimes.”

Newsom asserted that this has been a continual effort. He has led on policy efforts that have closed a number of California state prisons, halted the death penalty and eliminated cash bail for people who can’t afford it.

“This is not new in the state of California as the Assemblymember noted.      We’ve been organized in a very deliberative manner to address the issue of organized retail crime for a number of years. We are doubling down on those efforts today with this bill that I’ll be signing here in a moment,” Newsom said.

Newsom’s closing remarks attempted to strike the balance between accountability and mercy.

“We need to hold folks to account but we’ll do it in a thoughtful and judicious way, we’re not going back to the way things were in the ’80s and ’90s. At least not while I’m here,” Newsom said.

“We’re not going to back out on our commitment to reform, at the same time, we’re not going to walk away from accountability either,” he concluded.

California Black Media’s coverage of the Governor’s Office public health efforts is supported by the California Health Care Foundation.

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Activism

Formerly Incarcerated Can Help Bring Peace to the Streets

This wave of violence is very brutal but not new. And unless there is a miracle from our most high God, this violence won’t be eliminated.

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Hasan Almasi/Unsplash

The uptick in violence and discord that we see permeating the Bay Area is also occurring nationwide.  It seems that we are entering a state of vindictive racial, cultural and religious chaos that is affecting all segments of our society.

This wave of violence is very brutal but not new. And unless there is a miracle from our most high God, this violence won’t be eliminated.

But we, by working together in harmony, can do something to develop pathways towards quelling the violence.

Through collective effort we can design an approach that focuses on the causes of these random acts of violence.

As we address the root causes of this daily increase of violence in our community, we will discover that it can be attributed to a variety of reasons which include acts of domestic violence, turf struggles and revengeful acts by some gangs, some rogue activity by a few police officers along with many other senseless racially motivated crimes toward Asians, Hispanic Americans, and African Americans.

To help find solutions to some of this frightening violence we must conduct an extensive outreach to our neighborhood and community groups, civil rights groups, churches and non-profit organizations to find knowledgeable persons who also have extensive experience in the streets of Oakland.

I responded to a challenge from Paul Cobb, the publisher of the Oakland Post, to utilize the network of the readers of my column to solicit solutions to crime and violence. Mr. Cobb and his wife, Gay, attended my graduation while I was in San Quentin and they told me to use my voice to help bring peace and healing to Oakland. 

When I heard that he, along with the Pastors of Oakland and several groups such as the NAACP, Chinatown and the Oakland African American Chamber of Commerce had called for peace and unity at Chief Leronne Armstrong’s rally, I accepted his challenge to do outreach to members of the formerly incarcerated community.

I participated in a meeting with the formerly incarcerated and asked them to join with me to meet with Armstrong and any other official who want to employ solutions to the root causes of violence.

Some of the formerly incarcerated who were once complicit in carnage and destructive actions now say they truly understand why they must use their stories to help bring peace to our communities. 

More importantly, they know the ways of the streets and they know how to communicate with and are not fearful of the youth and others who are involved directly and indirectly in destructive acts.

They know they won’t be able to curb the violence in its entirety, but they have clearer insights as to why and what methods or solutions should be employed.

Many of the formerly incarcerated individuals who I have talked to want the media, the police department and our elected leaders to use their power to provide resources to help them bring peace to our community.

Under the auspices of “R.O.C.S.” (Restore Our Community Services), the formerly incarcerated want to work with the churches and other people of power and influence to bring positive approaches so we can witness some positive more peaceful results.

Let’s not allow violence to become the universal panacea for everything that is wrong within our minds. Violence can’t be allowed to replace the practice of civility. Let’s also use community diplomacy to resolve our differences.

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Community

Mayor London Breed Announces SFPD Tourism Deployment Plan as San Francisco Readies for Reemerging Travel Season

SFPD continues showcasing community policing reforms in deployment of 26 additional officers on bicycle and foot patrols to City’s high-traffic, iconic travel destinations

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San Francisco Cable Cars/Ragnar Vorel via Unsplash

Mayor London N. Breed announced details from San Francisco’s new community policing and tourism deployment plan to support and safeguard a re-emergent travel season that is forecast to exceed 15.3 million visitors by year’s end.

Outlining operational elements at a press conference on July 19 at Chinatown’s iconic Dragon’s Gate this morning, Breed and Police Chief Bill Scott highlighted how the San Francisco Police Department’s Tourism Deployment Plan will provide high-visibility and welcome support to an economic sector that is vitally important to San Francisco as travelers worldwide emerge from COVID-19 lockdowns.

“Tourism has long been an economic powerhouse in our city, bringing not just local tax revenue to fund vital city services but also jobs and economic opportunities for generations of San Franciscans,” said Breed. “San Francisco has done an incredible job managing this pandemic, and with one of the highest vaccination rates of anywhere in the country, we are working hard to reopen our city. That means bringing more officers to our tourist areas, as well as other efforts like our recently funded efforts to add more ambassadors and performances throughout Downtown, the Waterfront, and Mid-Market areas. We are committed to doing everything we can to reopen our businesses, put our residents back to work, and welcome travelers back to all of our city’s unforgettable destinations.”

The San Francisco Police Department’s Tourism Deployment Plan draws heavily from a community policing strategy that is among the pillars of SFPD’s groundbreaking 21st century police reforms. Under the plan, SFPD will deploy 26 additional police officers on bicycle and foot patrols to an array of high-traffic and highly sought-after travel destinations in five of the City’s 10 police districts:

  • Central Police District’s new deployments will feature 14 additional officers on bike and foot patrols that include: Union Square, Market Street, Powell Street, Chinatown and Lower Grant Avenue, Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf, North Beach and the crooked portion of Lombard Street.

 

  • Mission Police District’s new deployments will feature two additional officers on bike and foot patrols in the Castro and Upper Market.

 

  • Northern Police District’s new deployments will feature six additional officers on bicycle patrols around the Palace of Fine Arts, Alamo Square and Japantown.

 

  • Park Police District’s new deployments will feature two additional officers on bicycle patrols along the Haight Street commercial corridor.e

 

  • Richmond Police District’s new deployments will feature two additional officers on bicycle patrols in Golden Gate Park.

In addition to this Tourism Deployment Plan, the Mayor’s proposed budget, which the Board of Supervisors has come to an agreement on, includes funding for the Downtown Recovery Plan. The Downtown Recovery Plan includes an expansion of the number of ambassadors in the downtown and Union Square areas; a series of events and activations throughout Downtown, at the site of the temporary Transbay Terminal, and along the waterfront; and improvements at Hallidie Plaza, the entrance to the Powell Street BART Station and site of the Cable Car turnaround.

Outlook for Tourism Sector

Although there is renewed uncertainty about effects from COVID-19 variants in many parts of the world, a San Francisco Travel Association analysis released in March forecast that overall visitation to the City would reach 15.3 million in 2021, with $3.5 billion in overall visitor spending projected by year’s end. The study by San Francisco’s official destination marketing organization said that total visitation was not anticipated to return to pre-pandemic levels until 2023. Due to a slower recovery of international visitors and average rate in the City, San Francisco Travel concluded that overall visitor spending was unlikely to return to 2019 levels before 2025.

“Our market research shows a light at the end of the tunnel for destinations like San Francisco after a devastating year for the global tourism industry: there is huge pent-up demand for travel all over the world,” said San Francisco Travel President and CEO Joe D’Alessandro. “As San Francisco embarks on a multi-year recovery, we know that high-visibility, community-oriented patrols by San Francisco police officers provide a reassuring, welcoming presence for the visitors and conventions so essential to our city’s continued success.”

San Francisco Travel reported a total of 10.2 million visitors to the City in 2020, which was down 61 percent from a record high of 26.2 million in 2019. Total spending by visitors was $2.3 billion in 2020, representing a pandemic-driven drop of 77.7 percent from 2019’s record high of $10.3 billion in total visitor spending. Spending figures include expenditures on meetings and conventions in San Francisco.

The COVID-19 pandemic has similarly affected local employment related to the tourism sector, according to San Francisco Travel, which found that the number of jobs supported by tourism in San Francisco fell to 20,880 in 2020 — a 75.8 percent decline from 86,111 jobs tourism supported in 2019.

Expanded Community Policing at Visitor Destinations

The mission of officers detailed to the Tourism Deployment Plan is to provide high-visibility and preventative patrol in their assigned locations, while embodying the principles of a community policing strategy that is a centerpiece of the San Francisco Police Department’s comprehensive and voluntary Collaborative Reform Initiative. Officers are well trained to incorporate five goals into their community interactions and public guardianship, as detailed in SFPD’s Community Policing Strategic Plan. SFPD’s Community Policing principles include:

  • Goal 1: Communication that is honest, transparent, empathetic and culturally and linguistically competent and respectful.

 

  • Goal 2: Education that both teaches community members in safety awareness and learns from communities to serve more responsively.

 

  • Goal 3: Problem-solving through collaborative working partnerships to identify and address safety issues and topics of concern.

 

  • Goal 4: Relationship-building to forge trusting and respectful engagements with San Francisco’s residents and visitors alike.

 

  • Goal 5: Organizational and operational approaches reflecting the guardian mindset that defines the promise of 21st century policing.

New deployments of police officers under the Tourism Deployment Plan announced on July 19 have already been implemented and will supplement existing patrols citywide, which will remain at current staffing levels.

Officers deployed under the plan will be on bicycle or on foot in frequently traveled areas, greeting and interacting with community members and guests. Assignments include fixed posts as well as patrols in commercial corridors, depending on deployments. Officers’ primary focus will be to engage with the public and provide aid when needed, and to take necessary enforcement action whenever identifying individuals involved in crime.

The San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Communications is the source for this story.

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