A jury on Friday acquitted a Florida man of murder and attempted first degree murder over an incident at the man’s home in 2017.
Andrew Coffee IV, 27, was accused of firing at deputies of the Indian River County Sheriff’s Office’s SWAT team during a morning drug raid at his Gifford home in March 2017.
His girlfriend, Alteria Woods, who was 21 at the time, was caught in the crossfire and died during the raid. She was struck by 10 bullets fired by a SWAT team member, records show.
Coffee faced one charge of second-degree felony murder in connection with Woods’ death; the charge is defined as intentional but not premeditated killing. Coffee also faced three counts of attempted first-degree murder, and one count of shooting or throwing a deadly missile. The charges carry a life prison term.
Coffee said he was defending himself and his girlfriend when he fired shots at the deputies. On Wednesday at his testimony, he told the judge that he and Woods were asleep when deputies broke his bedroom window by using a pole that detonated a flash-bang device, reported Treasure Coast Newspapers.
Coffee, who testified on his own behalf, said he was asleep and thought the flash-bang was gunfire so he fired his gun because he thought the was under attack. He had previously said in a March hearing that he believed he was being robbed when he saw what looked like a rifle pointed at him through the window. He said he didn’t know a raid was happening when he fired a pistol out his window about two to three times.
“I was trying to protect me and Alteria, and I thought I was doing that, but I feel I didn’t protect her. I can’t sleep with that … they killed her,” Coffee said on Wednesday, reported WPBF.
But prosecutors said the deputies did announce they were there, the outlet reported.
The deputies, in response to the gunfire from Coffee, fired more than a dozen rounds toward the window, according to court records. Woods was later found dead on a bed in Coffee’s bedroom.
A grand jury in July 2017 cleared the SWAT team members of any criminal charges. An internal investigation by the Sheriff’s Office also cleared the members of any violation of policies and procedures.
The jury deliberated for about 11 hours before acquitting Coffee of the above charges on Friday.
In a separate proceeding on the same day, the same jury convicted Coffee of one count of possession of a firearm by a felon. The charge has a maximum prison term of 30 years. Assistant State Attorney Chris Taylor said after court that the state will be seeking the maximum penalty.
Indian River County Sheriff Eric Flowers released a statement to news outlets after the Friday verdict, saying, “It’s disappointing that this jury did not see the tragic death of Alteria Woods occurred as a direct result of the actions of Andrew Coffee IV.
“Our hearts go out to the Woods family as they still suffer from a loss of their daughter, but we stand by a statement that she would still be here had Coffee simply complied with law enforcement.”
Mimi Nguyen Ly is a world news reporter based in Australia. She holds a bachelor’s degree in optometry and vision science. Contact her at [email protected]