Vince Wilfork’s childhood friend Corey Jones was shot dead on Sunday by Palm Beach Gardens (Fla.) police officer Nouman Raja. Wilfork spoke yesterday about doing what he can to make sure justice is served.
Jones, a 31-year-old drummer, was stuck on the side of Interstate 95 after his car broke down on the way home from a gig; police said Raja, who was not in uniform, pulled over to check on what he thought was an abandoned car.
Police have said little about what happened next. Chief Stephen Sepp has told reporters that the officer “was suddenly confronted by an armed subject,” leading to Raja firing his gun. Jones’s family has said there’s more to what happened than that, with lawyer Benjamin Crump noting that Jones never fired his gun (which he carried legally), while Raja was in plainclothes, an unmarked van, and never showed his badge, and that Jones “went to his grave not knowing he was killed by an officer.”
Wilfork grew up in Boynton Beach and went to Santaluces High, the same school as Jones, and Houston plays the Miami Dolphins this weekend in South Florida. When asked to speak about the shooting he told reporters, “We’re going to continue to get justice and that’s how it is right now.”
Here are Wilfork’s full comments (via the team-provided transcripts):
It’s a tough situation to be in, especially for the immediate family. But at the same time, everything has consequences. We’re working now hard to figure things out. We’re going to continue to get justice and that’s how it is right now. I think sometimes we have a platform we can use for a certain purpose. This week, this is my purpose. To have the platform I have to speak about it, that’s what it’s all about. I’m going to go down there and see them, visit his family. He is family to me, but he has immediate family down there. At this point, it means a lot for them, for everybody to come together and just be with one another and pray about the whole situation. That’s where we’re at right now, so hopefully we can get it situated and justice can be served.
On what he can do to help bring justice to the situation:
Well, when we can do this, I think that’s the main thing. I think so far everything is nationwide, it’s been across the world this story. The crazy thing is it’s not the first time this has happened. We’ve seen a lot of this going on in society, but especially when it affects you personally, when it’s your own family, that’s for me to be in the spot that I’m in, it just gives me an opportunity to speak about it. I’m not bashful about speaking about it. I have tons of respect for law enforcement. I have friends that are police officers and cops, so I have nothing against them. But at the same time, we’re dealing with somebody that was shot dead. We have to figure it out as a society. Not just this case, but the cases that have been going on for a while now. We have to try and figure out a solution. I think everybody needs to be held accountable, plain and simple.
On if he is dedicating this weekend’s game at Miami to his memory:
It’s crazy because here I am coming from a place that I played the Dolphins twice a year. Here I am in Houston now and I’m going down to Miami, my home state. Being able to get a chance to see them is special, so I’m just grateful that I’m able to see them because who knows? If I wouldn’t be playing the Dolphins or heading down there, so it kind of worked out that I can be down there with them for a little bit and refocus my mind on football afterwards. It’s going to be going through my mind until justice is served, so my main job is to make sure the family knows that I’m with them. We’re all sticking together on this. We’re going to do what we can to get this justice served.
On if he thinks progress is being made socially with this issue:
I don’t know yet. Right now, there’s still stuff coming out in the media about what’s going on. We just got to let it play out. But like I said, at the end of the day, you have somebody’s child, you have somebody’s family member that’s dead. We have to deal with it. It’s that simple. Like I said, everything has consequences in life. Anything you chose to do in life, it has consequences. You have to be able to deal with those consequences. Right now, we’re going to deal with these consequences and hopefully the right thing will happen. That’s what we’re praying for, that’s what we’re pushing for and we’re not going to stop pushing either. Like I said, there’s a lot of it that’s been going on in the world, but it’s different when it affects you personally. That affects me personally.
On what he teaches his kids about law enforcement:
You know what, I tell my kids to treat everyone with respect no matter if you’re wrong or right, especially when you’re dealing with law enforcement. But stories that you hear, you never can get the true answer and that’s what we search for. That’s what we’re going to search for. The only person that knows what happened is that cop and Corey. He’s deceased now, so are we going to get the true answer? We don’t know. We’re going to search and we’re going to dig until we get the true answer, what’s going on? This is what it’s all about for me, especially this week. Like I said, the platform that we have and the crazy thing is the family has tons and tons of athletes in their family. Anquan Boldin, he’s one. I’m pretty sure he’ll come out and talk about it. But we can use this platform, especially for the immediate family, to let them know that we’re behind them and we’re supporting them 100 percent. I never want to take anything away from what I do for a living, play football. I’m going down to play a football game, but at the same time, this is family. You’ve got to be able to deal with it. Everybody deals with things a certain way. I’m going to make sure I deal with it the way I think I need to deal with it. I’ve been playing the game for a long time, so when it comes Sunday to play, I’ll be ready to play. But for right now, we’re going to do everything in our will power to make sure justice is served.
On if it’s difficult to focus on the game during a time like this:
You kind of put it away and go to work. When I strap on my helmet, no matter if it’s in practice or in the game, when I put my uniform on, it’s time to go to work. It’ll be no different this week. It’ll be with a heavy heart, of course. But my job is to play football and I will play football. I’ll deal with it when I take off the helmet and take off my body armor, my shoulder pads and everything. I’ll deal with it some more afterwards. That’s how I’m approaching it. I never want to disrespect the game or my teammates or this organization or the Miami Dolphins. Don’t show them any kind of disrespect from not acknowledging that we’re going down there to play a game and it’s a business trip for us. But at the same time, I think it is important for me to stand up and talk about this issue just because of that’s a family member of mine and that’s something that we need to be dealing with. But I never want anyone to think that I’m disrespecting anyone in this locker room or the game by not showing the respect to both organizations. I’ve been in the game for a long time, I have tremendous respect for football. It’s going to continue, but right now it’s something that I have to deal with. My family, we’re going to deal with it. I’m going to use this platform to deal with it.
Image via Associated Press