The wife of John Mark Coffey has taken issue with details released in an autopsy report by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, which maintained apparent “suicidal statements” made by Coffey to her prior to his shooting death.
“That is false,” Mrs. Coffey told The Independent, asking that her first name not be used. “I never spoke to the Chief Medical Examiner. I haven’t spoken to anybody except my attorney. I don’t know how the coroner could say it because my husband was dead and I haven’t spoken to anybody.”
An autopsy released last week showed that Coffey, shot to death by law enforcement officers during a standoff at Burger King in Clinton over Memorial Day weekend, sustained 14 gunshot wounds. The 15-page autopsy examination report by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Raleigh detailed Coffey’s medical history and the gunshot injuries he sustained in the early morning hours May 29.
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.
In the conclusion of the report, labeled “summary and interpretation,” the Chief Medical Examiner’s document notes that Coffey suffered from medical issues and depression.
“According to the case calls, Sampson County Medical Examiner Report of Investigation and verbal information from a State Bureau of Investigation agent, this 53-year-old man had a history of chronic pain following a pancreaticoduodenectomy procedure, chronic pancreatitis, alcoholism and depression,” the report stated.
“He had apparently made prior suicidal statements to his wife,” the report summary continued. “On May 28, he drove to a fast-food restaurant and indicated to staff that he needed help. Police were summoned and found the decedent in his truck with a shotgun.”
Coffey’s wife said any information about suicidal statements is a flat-out untruth.
“It’s false,” she asserted. “It’s a lie. It’s all a bunch of lies.”
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, after about 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.
Last month, the police officers transitioned to administrative duty, confined to office work without their gun and badge as criminal and internal investigations continue. The SBI has 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.
Reached Monday, District Attorney Ernie Lee said he received the autopsy report last week and has since reviewed it. He has also been in contact with SBI Special Agent Errol Jarman several times since the May 29 shooting, receiving updates throughout the SBI’s investigation and again on Monday.
“The SBI report is being finalized and should be ready for my review prior to the last week of August 2016,” noted Lee, who is scheduled to meet with the SBI the week of Aug. 29 about the investigation.
Reach Managing Editor Chris Berendt at 910-249-4616. Follow the paper on twitter @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.