GIFFORD – At approximately 5:45 A.M. this morning, the Indian River County Sheriff’s Office Special Weapons and Tactics (S.W.A.T.) Team attempted to serve a search warrant in the 4500 block of 35th Avenue in Gifford near Vero Beach, Florida.
The search warrant, signed by the Honorable Robert Pegg in Vero Beach, was for illegal narcotics and served in conjunction with our Special Investigations Unit as part of Operation Safe Streets.
The S.W.A.T. Team approached the house under the cover of darkness. As they positioned themselves to execute the search warrant, Andrew Coffee III (38), exited the residence and, upon seeing law enforcement officers, attempted to flee back inside.
As deputies struggled to take Coffee III into custody, shots were fired from inside the residence at deputies.
“Three S.W.A.T. Team members returned fire and one person inside of the residence was killed. Deputy Kelsey Zorc was grazed by a bullet in her shoulder. Deputy Zorc’s ballistic vest prevented further injury,” Indian River County Sheriff’s spokesman Lt. Eric Flowers said in a statement.
Flowers said that five people, including Andrew Coffee III and his son, Andrew Coffee IV (23), were taken into custody from the residence.
Deputy Zorc was treated at Indian River Medical Center and released. Specific details of the shooting are under investigation at this time.
“Early this morning, our S.W.A.T. Team took fire while attempting to serve a high-risk search warrant in the Gifford Area. The last time the Indian River County Sheriff’s Office discharged a firearm was December 18, 2015, when Deputy Chris Lester was shot by Andrew Coffee II, a career criminal who remains in our jail. The Coffee family has a history of violence against law enforcement. Our S.W.A.T. Team is to be commended for their bravery this morning as they again put their lives on the line to apprehend career criminals,” Indian River County Sheriff Deryl Loar stated.
In accordance with standard procedure, the three deputies who fired their weapons were placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the ongoing investigation.
The Indian River County Sheriff’s Office S.W.A.T. Team was formed in 1984 and has executed hundreds of high-risk search warrants in its thirty-three-year existence. This is the first deadly force incident for the Indian River County Sheriff’s Office S.W.A.T. Team.
Operation Safe Streets began on February 20, 2017, and has resulted in four search warrants, the arrest of 16 persons, and the seizure of trafficking amounts of crack cocaine along with two weapons. Andrew Coffee III has more than 57 arrests while Andrew Coffee IV has more than 36 arrests.
Alteria Woods, 21, was killed in the shootout.
Thirty-one days ago, Deputy Garry Chambliss was killed by a stray bullet in Gifford. Since that time, deputies and detectives with the Indian River County Sheriff’s Office have participated in Operation Safe Streets, a detail targeting the apprehension of wanted fugitives, the removal of guns and drugs from the streets, and to ultimately solve the murder of Deputy Chambliss.