Autopsy: Coffey shot 14 times by officers

By: By Chris Berendt -

A Warsaw man shot to death by law enforcement officers during a standoff at Burger King in Clinton over Memorial Day weekend sustained 14 gunshot wounds, according to autopsy findings.

The 15-page autopsy examination report by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Raleigh was completed on Tuesday and released Wednesday, detailing John Mark Coffey’s medical history and the gunshot injuries he sustained in the early morning hours May 29.

The examination was done on May 31, with the cause of death listed as multiple gunshot and shotgun wounds.

Of the 14 times he was shot, Coffey, 53, sustained single gunshot wounds to the head; left shoulder and neck; chest and shoulder; two wounds to the torso; two to the upper back; three to the arms; three to the legs; and one to the pelvis.

The autopsy report also noted “numerous scattered superficial abrasions and superficial penetrating injuries from fragmented metal and glass … consistent with shots passing through glass or parts of his vehicle.”

Officers responding to a 911 call at Burger King on Southeast Boulevard just before midnight May 28 found Coffey sitting by himself in a white Dodge truck armed with a shotgun.

Officers attempted to negotiate with Coffey to put his weapon down and Coffey reportedly replied that he had five rounds of ammunition and was not coming out of his vehicle. After about 20 minutes, shortly before 12:20 a.m. May 29, Coffey opened the driver’s door and pointed a weapon at the officers, who fired multiple rounds, killing him, authorities said.

Coffey was pronounced dead at the scene.

Seven Clinton police officers and a Highway Patrol trooper were placed on administrative leave following the shooting. Last month, the police officers transitioned to administrative duty, confined to office work without their gun and badge as criminal and internal investigations continue.

Five body cameras and four in-car video cameras were turned over to the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI), which is conducting a criminal probe into the matter. The Clinton Police Department’s Internal Affairs Unit is conducting an investigation to gauge any policy violations. The SBI will turn its findings over to the District Attorney’s Office for further review.

“The department received the autopsy report today from the State Medical Examiner’s Office. We are in the process of reviewing the findings as part of our internal investigation,” Clinton Police Chief Jay Tilley said when reached Thursday. “I talked with the SBI yesterday and they are now preparing the final written report to be presented to the DA.”

Tilley has called the incident and subsequent investigation “rare” for the Clinton Police Department, which has not had such an officer-involved shooting in close to 50 years. The department consists of 28 officers including Tilley, meaning that the shooting has effectively meant one-quarter of the force has been taken off the road for the past two months.

Chronic pain, ‘suicidal’ statements

According to the Chief Medical Examiner’s report, Coffey suffered from chronic pancreatitis, alcoholism and depression.

Citing case calls, Sampson Medical Examiner Dr. Carl Barr’s initial report and verbal information from a SBI agent, Coffey had a history of chronic pain following a pancreaticoduodenectomy procedure, also called a Whipple Procedure, which is an operation to remove tumors in the pancreas. The head of the pancreas, the gallbladder and portions of the small intestine and stomach, were removed along with the lymph nodes in the pancreas. Coffey also reportedly had hepatic cirrhosis.

“He had apparently made prior suicidal statements to his wife. 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,” the report stated.

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 (chest pain) and hypertension (high blood pressure). No alcohol was detected.

In the autopsy report, there was no attempt to differentiate between handgun, rifle and shotgun wounds as part of the examination, however based on recovered ammunition, some of the wounds were clearly due to handguns, while some represented shotgun or rifle wounds, the report stated.

“While linking some of the injuries to firearm type (handgun, rifle, or shotgun) is beyond the scope of this report, the physical evidence does support use of these weapons,” the autopsy findings read, later noting a “reported” combination of AR-15 rifles, 12-gauge shotguns (reportedly with slug ammunition), a .357 Magnum handgun and .40 caliber handguns.”

Three of the wounds — two to the torso and one to the upper back — were clearly from handguns, based on recovered bullets, the autopsy report noted. Wounds to the left shoulder and neck, right chest and shoulder and pelvis also appeared to be from handguns. Some of the other wounds had characteristics or recovered projectile fragments consistent with rifle or shotgun injuries, the report read.

There was also evidence of remote injuries on Coffey’s body, including metal fragments — possibly representing an old fragmented bullet — recovered from this right thigh, and a BB lodged in the tip of his left index finger.

An autopsy report released Wednesday details the injuries sustained by John Mark Coffey, 53, of Warsaw on May 29, when officers responded to a 911 call at Burger King in Clinton. autopsy report released Wednesday details the injuries sustained by John Mark Coffey, 53, of Warsaw on May 29, when officers responded to a 911 call at Burger King in Clinton.
Autopsy report details wounds, history of medical issues

By Chris Berendt

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.