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CLINTON, N.C. (WNCN) – The Sampson County district attorney has ruled that the fatal shooting of an armed man in a Clinton Burger King parking lot by eight law enforcement officers in May was justified.
The ruling released Monday relates to the case of John Mark Coffey, 53, of Warsaw, who was hit by bullets from officers 14 times while sitting in his truck in a Burger King parking lot on May 29.
The incident began at 12:01 a.m. Sunday, May 29 when two Clinton police officers arrived at the business after a 911 call.
Shortly after arriving on the scene, one of the officers called by radio stating that the man had a shotgun, police said in a statement.
As the two officers backed away from Coffey, they took cover and started negotiating with him. Six more Clinton police officers and one N.C. State Highway Patrol trooper responded and cordoned off the parking lot.
A Clinton Police Department commander was on scene overseeing the event.
“Officers attempted to negotiate for approximately 20 minutes with the male subject to put the weapon down and surrender,” a Clinton police official said.
“During this time, the commander coordinated with officers on the scene and the E911 (operator) to ensure the safety of citizens at a nearby home and at the Burger King,” police added.
The commander also asked for an EMS unit to come the scene.
During the police attempts to negotiate, Coffey told officers that he had five rounds and “was not coming out of the vehicle,” police said.
Coffey was unresponsive and would not comply with their requests to put the shotgun down, according to the police statement.
At approximately 12:18 a.m. Coffey opened the driver’s door of the white pickup truck and pointed a weapon at the officers, police said.
“The officers then fired multiple rounds at the male, fatally striking him,” according to the police statement.
Evidence indicates officers fired 143 times, according to the District Attorney’s statement. After the shooting, it turned out that the shotgun wasn’t loaded, and there’s no evidence that Coffey ever fired a shot, according to the District Attorney.
“Although, some may question the number of shots fired as being excessive, the evidence shows that it was not until the third volley of shots, that the apparent threat posed by Coffey was neutralized,” District Attorney Ernie Lee wrote.
EMS was immediately called and they pronounced Coffey dead at the scene. There were no injuries to the officers.
The autopsy showed Coffey’s wounds included gunshots to the head, shoulders, neck and torso.
The officers who were placed on administrative leave were:
- Lt. R. K. Dalton, an 11-year veteran with CPD
- Sgt. A. D. Clowney, a 10-year veteran with CPD
- Det. S. M. Crespo, a 2-year veteran with CPD
- Cpl. J. A. Kittrell, an 11-year veteran with CPD
- Cpl. J. A. Snell, a 2-year veteran with CPD
- Officer A. W. McDuffie, a 1-year veteran with CPD
- Officer B. N. Hall, a 1-year veteran with CPD
- NCSHP Trooper M. High, a 1-year veteran
“I have determined that the shooting death of John Mark Coffey is justified and no criminal charges in the matter are warranted under the law and under the circumstances revealed by the independent SBI investigation,” District Attorney Ernie Lee wrote.