VERO BEACH — An attorney representing a Vero Beach man charged in the murder of his girlfriend – even though it was Indian River County Sheriff officers who riddled the suspect’s home with bullets and shot and killed the victim as she lay in bed – admitted in court that his client faces a tough legal challenge because almost all of the witnesses are officers.
Attorney Adam Chrzan, one of the attorney’s representing Andrew Coffee IV, made his comments following a status hearing with prosecutors and Judge Cynthia Cox on September 25. Chrzan told Cox that defense attorneys are still taking depositions from witnesses.
Cox scheduled another status hearing for November 27 in hopes that a trial date can soon be set in the 1 ½-year-old case.
“The victim is dead, and all of the witnesses outside of the home are officers,” Chrzan said. “That makes this case very difficult.”
Coffee IV was not present at the hearing.
According to sheriff reports, the sheriff’s SWAT team, which were armed with specialty weapons, arrived outside the Coffee residence shortly before 6 a.m., March 19, 2017 to conduct a drug raid in which they were targeting Coffee IV’s father, Andrew Coffee III.
Coffee IV, who was inside the home, located in the 4500 block of 35th Avenue in Gifford, initially started shooting at officers after they began busting windows into the home, including the bedroom where Coffee and his girlfriend, Alteria Woods, were lying in bed, according to the arrest affidavit.
The case has been mired in controversy due to several inconsistent statements made by Indian River County Sheriff Deryl Loar after the incident. For example, Loar initially told national media that “Andrew Coffee IV cowardly was using (Woods) as protection.” He later backed off, but never apologized for that false allegation.
Coffee said he woke up, saw the barrel of a gun sticking through his window, and thought somebody was trying to break into the home, according to arrest records. Coffee said he fired several rounds in self-defense, to scare away the intruder. When he realized it was law enforcement he dropped the gun, according to the affidavit.
Woods, who was lying in bed next to Coffee, was shot at least ten times by officers who continued firing into the home, according to sheriff reports.
Deputy Kelsey Zorc, who was shot in the shoulder, was treated and released from Indian River Medical Center.
Neither Coffee IV or his father were shot or injured during the incident. Two other women in the home at the time were not injured or arrested.
Coffee III and IV were arrested during the drug raid, but the younger Coffee was also charged with second degree murder for the death of Woods. He was formally charged with shooting or throwing a deadly missile, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and three counts of attempted first degree murder on a law enforcement officer by discharging a firearm.
Coffee III, was charged with possession of cocaine, multiple counts of possession of a controlled substance, resisting arrest without violence and possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia.
Chris Taylor, state attorney for Indian River County, blamed the younger Coffee for his own girlfriend’s death, stating that the indictment was based on the fact that Woods died “in an act of a dangerous felony.”
A grand jury on July 17, 2017, ruled not to indict the two deputies and officer who fired their guns during the raid. Taylor said at the time that the jury found “no probable cause” to indict one or more officers.
Woods’ family have said they are considering a lawsuit against the sheriff’s department, but have not yet done so.
Associate medical examiner Linda Rush O’Neil noted in her report that Woods had no traces of cocaine or marijuana in her system.
Photo: Grand jury’s findings on Alteria Woods case being presented to a judge in 2017.