VERO BEACH, Fla. (CBS12) — Jurors found Andrew Coffee IV not guilty on charges of felony murder and attempted murder of a law enforcement officer, on Friday, determining he acted in self-defense when firing at deputies during a SWAT raid in 2017.
When the gunfire ended, Coffee's girlfriend, 21-year-old Alteria Woods, was found dead. She had been caught in the crossfire, shot 10 times by deputies.
The Indian River County Sheriff's Office called the verdict "disappointing" but maintains its deputies acted appropriately during the raid.
Deputies with the Indian River County Sheriff's Office raided Coffee's home around 5am in March, 2017. Their target was his father, Andrew Coffee III, who they suspected of dealing drugs.
Arrest records indicate SWAT deputies say they identified themselves when approaching the home and quickly arrested Andrew Coffee III at the front door.
Defense attorneys argued Andrew Coffee IV was asleep when his father was arrested and did not hear the deputies identify themselves as law enforcement. They say he only woke up when the tactical team smashed through his bedroom window, prompting Coffee to fear for his safety and fire off several shots. Deputies returned fire.
Coffee testified at his trial that he didn't hear the verbal commands from deputies and had no clue what was going on and that's why he began shooting in self-defense.
"He said, 'I'm not saying that they didn’t announce [themselves], I'm saying I didn’t hear it," Coffee's attorney Adam Chrzam told CBS 12 News in an interview. "He believed he was under assault, whatever assault that was."
Coffee was charged with murder in connection with Woods' death, as well as attempted murder of a law enforcement officer.
"Clearly the defense was that he didn’t realize that this was law enforcement," said Ian Goldstein, a West Palm Beach defense attorney who serves as a legal analyst for CBS 12 News. "If that’s what he thought, than he has the right to use self defense."
The jury acquitted him of both charges connected to the shootout, but found him guilty of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Coffee was convicted in 2013 of battery on a police officer and evading arrest after he fled a traffic stop.
"It’s disappointing that this jury did not see that the tragic death of Alteria Woods occurred as a direct results of the actions of Andrew Coffee IV," a spokesperson for the Indian River County Sheriff's Office said in a statement to CBS 12 News. "Our deputies were there as a result of drug complaints and sales and took fire from Coffee upon which they had no choice but to protect themselves and others. Our hearts go out to the Woods family as they still suffer from the loss of their daughter, but we stand by our statement that she would still be here had Coffee simply complied with law enforcement."
The Woods family is currently suing the Indian River County Sheriff's Office in federal court, alleging the raid was botched.
"The Woods family never blamed Andrew “AJ” Coffee IV for the death of their daughter, Alteria Woods. They are happy with the jury’s verdict and that justice prevailed today," the family's attorney Mary Sherris told CBS 12 News.
Coffee will be sentenced for the firearm conviction on Jan. 13, 2022.