A young pregnant woman killed in a shootout between a suspected drug dealer and Florida police died by gunfire from officers, not the suspect, according to officials.
“Unfortunately, one of the rounds fired by a swat team member struck an innocent person that Andrew Coffee IV cowardly was using as protection … while firing on law enforcement officers,” Indian River County Sheriff Deryl Loar said.
The victim has been identified as 21-year-old Alteria Woods. She was four months pregnant. Coffee – Woods’ boyfriend and the father of her unborn child – was not injured, police said.
The incident unfolded shortly before 6 a.m. on Sunday, when police executed a search warrant at a “known drug house” in Gifford. Police said Coffee, 23, fired on officers as they attempted to enter the residence through a bedroom window. Loar described the shooting as “ambush style.”
Authorities returned fire, during which time Deputy Kelsey Zorc was shot in the shoulder. Loar said “a bulletproof vest saved her life ― no doubt about it.”
The number of gunfire rounds exchanged remains under investigation. Five people inside the home were arrested, including Coffee’s father, 37-year-old Andrew Coffee III. Authorities said they seized an assortment of firearms and drugs.
Loar called Woods an “innocent victim.”
“Our thoughts and prayers are with Woods’ family,” the sheriff said. “It’s an unfortunate situation.”
Per the policy of the sheriff’s department, the officers involved have been placed on administrative leave. However, the sheriff made it clear the suspects are to blame for a series of violent acts that ultimately led to Woods’ death.
“These are career criminals and cowards,” Loar said.
Coffee III has nearly 60 prior arrests and his son has been arrested more than 36 times, according to West Palm Beach’s WPEC News. Andrew Coffee II has been jailed since December 2015, when he allegedly shot Deputy Chris Lester. That case is pending trial.
Coffee III and Coffee IV are both charged with attempted murder on a law enforcement officer. The elder Coffee is being held in lieu of $93,000 bond, while his son is being held on a $307,000 bond.
Woods’ aunt, Arlene Cooper, said the family is having a difficult time accepting that she is gone.
“We don’t know what to do,” Cooper told WPEC. She said the family has “no closure.”