Melissa E. Holsman, TCPalm, November 19, 2021
A Gifford man who claimed he was defending himself and his girlfriend when he fired shots at deputies during an early-morning raid in 2017 was acquitted Friday of charges that carried a life prison term.
A jury found Andrew “A.J.” Coffee IV, 27, not guilty of second-degree felony murder, three counts of attempted first-degree murder of a law enforcement officer by discharging a firearm and one count of shooting or throwing a deadly missile.
In a separate proceeding Friday, the same jury convicted Coffee IV of one count of possession of a firearm by a felon.
At his sentencing Jan. 13, he faces a maximum prison term of 30 years.
“The state will be seeking that maximum 30 years upon him,” Assistant State Attorney Chris Taylor said after court.
The charges related to a March 19, 2017, fire fight between a Sheriff’s Office Special Weapons and Tactical team and Coffee IV at his home in the 4500 block of 35th Avenue, Gifford.
His girlfriend, Alteria Woods, 21, died during the raid after being struck by 10 bullets fired by a SWAT team member, including one shot that entered her chest, records show.
Coffee on Wednesday testified on his own behalf as he did in March, during a stand your ground hearing seeking immunity from prosecution.
Then, he told Circuit Judge Dan Vaughn he and Woods had been asleep when deputies at the back of the house broke out the window to his bedroom using a pole that then detonated a flashbang device.
Moments earlier, SWAT members at the front of the house had quickly taken his father, Andrew Coffee III, into custody after a brief struggle just outside the home’s front door.
During his March hearing, Coffee IV said he thought he was being robbed when he saw what appeared to be a rifle sticking through the open window pointed at him. He insisted he didn’t know the raid was underway when he fired a .45-caliber pistol out his bedroom window, shooting it two or three times.
Deputies in turn shot more than a dozen rounds toward the bedroom window, court records show.
A grand jury in July 2017 cleared SWAT team members of any criminal charges and a Sheriff’s Office internal investigation cleared them of any violations of policies and procedures.
In June, Vaughn denied Coffee’s bid for immunity under the state’s “stand your ground” law. An appeals court in October declined to overturn Vaughn’s ruling.
Coffee IV has a criminal record that includes four felony convictions, Taylor noted, which he said allows the state to seek an enhanced punishment for the gun conviction.