D.A. reviewing evidence in fatal Clinton shooting

By Chris Berendt - [email protected]

The District Attorney’s Office is now reviewing audio and video footage from an officer-involved shooting in late May that resulted in the death of a Warsaw man.

District Attorney Ernie Lee and Assistant District Attorney Arneatha Gillis of the Sampson office met with the State Bureau of Investigation’s Assistant Special Agent in Charge (ASAC) Errol Jarman on Monday in Clinton to discuss the investigation. Lee said he has kept in regular contact with Jarman since the May 29 shooting that killed John Mark Coffey, 53.

“We viewed the area at the Burger King parking lot where the incident occurred,” Lee stated, noting the site of a standoff between Coffey and law enforcement officers.

Lee said last month that he had already reviewed the Chief Medical Examiner’s autopsy report and been in regular contact with Jarman since the shooting, receiving updates throughout the SBI’s investigation. That was continuing this week. Lee was provided “many” discs and one flash drive of materials to review. He along with Gillis reviewed some of those discs on Monday and that review continued Wednesday and Thursday.

“The SBI will also be providing me with a written report very soon,” Lee stated.

The Chief Medical Examiner’s autopsy revealed Coffey sustained 14 gunshot wounds when he was shot by law enforcement officers. Toxicology tests detected the presence in Coffey’s body of phenobarbital, an anti-anxiety drug used to curb seizures; sertraline, an anti-depressant used to treat depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder and anxiety disorders; and metoprolol, used to treat angina and hypertension. No alcohol was detected.

Seven Clinton police officers and a Highway Patrol trooper were placed on administrative leave following the shooting, which happened shortly before 12:20 a.m. May 29, following approximately 20 minutes of negotiations with police. Authorities said Coffey opened the driver’s door and allegedly pointed a weapon at the officers, who opened fire, killing him.

In July, the police officers transitioned to administrative duty, confined to office work without their gun and badge as criminal and internal investigations continue. The SBI had been conducting a criminal probe into the matter since the end of May and the Clinton Police Department’s Internal Affairs Unit launched its own investigation to gauge any policy violations.

Clinton Police Chief Jay Tilley has noted that the findings of those two investigations would likely be released at the same time.

By Chris Berendt

[email protected]

Reach Managing Editor Chris Berendt at 910-249-4616. Follow the paper on twitter @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.

Reach Managing Editor Chris Berendt at 910-249-4616. Follow the paper on twitter @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.

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