18-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse was acquitted on the same day another young man who claimed he fired a gun in self-defense was also found not guilty of murder.
A jury found Andrew "A.J." Coffee IV, a black man, not guilty of second-degree felony murder, three counts of attempted first-degree murder of a law enforcement officer by discharging a firearm, and one count of shooting or throwing a deadly missile on Friday, the same day Rittenhouse was found not guilty on all charges.
At least 14 law enforcement officers, including SWAT team members in camouflage pants and shirts with "SWAT" on the sleeves, arrived at the Coffee home in Gifford, Florida, around 5 am on March 19, 2017. The 27-year-old shooter's father, Andrew Coffee III, opened the front door to the house and was taken into police custody by the arriving officers, according to Vero News.
Before entering the house, deputies yelled, "sheriff's office search warrant," according to witness statements. Coffee IV told the court he was asleep at the time and woke up believing he was being robbed. The defense said Coffee also thought the use of flashbangs was gunfire and that he was under attack.
"[Coffee] said, 'I'm not saying that [officers] didn't announce [themselves], I'm saying I didn't hear it," Coffee's defense attorney told CBS 12 News in an interview. "He believed he was under assault, whatever assault that was."
He said he spotted what appeared to be a rifle sticking through an open bedroom window pointed at him. That's when he fired a .45-caliber pistol out of the window, shooting at Indian River County Sheriff's deputies, according to WPBF.
The deputies returned fire with over a dozen rounds shot towards the bedroom, according to court records. Coffee's 21-year-old girlfriend, Alteria Woods, was caught in the crossfire and shot dead after she was struck by bullets fired by the officers during the SWAT operation, according to medical examiners.
In the elder Coffee's bedroom, deputies said authorities discovered marijuana cigarettes, crack cocaine, 10 Hydromorphone pills, and one oxycodone pill.
The younger Coffee was charged with murder in connection with the girlfriend's death as well as attempted murder of a law enforcement officer.
Coffee's attorney Adam Chrzan explained that the defense team was able to successfully argue in court that there was "overreaction and overreach" by the sheriff's department during the early morning 2017 drug raid.
"They should have pulled back, they didn't. And this is what happens when you go into a volatile situation without all the information," Chrzan stated.
Coffee was acquitted Friday of all murder charges after claiming he fired in self-defense. However, he was found guilty of possession of a firearm or ammunition by a convicted felon; he was convicted in 2013 of battery on a police officer and evading arrest after he fled a traffic stop. Coffee, who has four felony convictions, faces a maximum prison term of 30 years when he is sentenced on Jan. 13, 2022.
"It's disappointing that this jury did not see that the tragic death of Alteria Woods occurred as a direct results of the actions of Andrew Coffee IV," a spokesperson for the Indian River County Sheriff's Office said in a statement to CBS 12 News.
The office's spokesperson said that the deputies were at the scene as a result of drug complaints and sales, then "took fire from Coffee upon which they had no choice but to protect themselves and others," also maintaining that Woods "would still be here had Coffee simply complied with law enforcement."
A family attorney for the Woods family, Mary Sherris, told CBS 12 News that they've "never blamed" Coffee for the young woman's death, noting they're "happy with the jury's verdict" and "that justice prevailed." The Woods family is suing the Indian River County Sheriff's Office in federal court, alleging the raid was botched.
Many political commentators on social media are drawing parallels between the Coffee and Rittenhouse verdicts, since the acquittals arrived within hours of each other. Coffee's case disputes the claim that race played a role in Rittenhouse's acquittal, despite the left's "white supremacist" smear campaign against the teen.
Even after the Kenosha jury delivered the verdict, MSNBC host Tiffany Cross was "disgusted" over Friday's outcome and called Rittenhouse a "little murderous white supremacist." During the 2020 presidential race, President Joe Biden suggested that Rittenhouse was part of a "white supremacist" militia and used imagery of the young defendant in a campaign ad disavowing white supremacy after he faced off with former President Donald Trump on the debate stage.
NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace invented a hypothetical situation where Rittenhouse would have been guilty of murder if he were black. "Ha, let the boy be black and it would've been life," Wallace tweeted Friday, further speculating: "hell [Rittenhouse] would've had his life taken before the bullshit trial."
CNN's Don Lemon also begged the race reversal question on the left-wing network. "If a black kid did that, killed two people and injured another person, how would America feel about that?" Lemon asked on-air. "Just think about public opinion and public perception, and what would be allowed in our society."
The jury in Kenosha, Wisconsin, agreed that Rittenhouse shot three Black Lives Matter rioters, killing two and injuring a third, in self-defense on Aug. 25, 2020.
Rittenhouse escaped lifetime imprisonment over the fatal shootings of Anthony Huber and Joseph Rosenbaum during the city's Jacob Blake riots in August 2020.
In an exclusive interview with Fox News host Tucker Carlson that premiered Monday, the acquitted teen said the case "had nothing to do with race," also declaring that he supports the BLM movement and peaceful protest.
"It never had anything to do with race. It had to do with the right to self-defense," Rittenhouse reiterated. "I'm not a racist person. I support the BLM movement. I support peacefully demonstrating. I believe there needs to be change. I believe there's a lot of prosecutorial misconduct, not just in my case but in other cases. It's just amazing to see how much a prosecutor can take advantage of someone."
"People saying Rittenhouse would be found guilty if he were black ought to read about the Coffee verdict, which, as it happens, also came down today," Daily Caller editor-in-chief Geoffrey Ingersoll pointed out. "Coffee FIRED ON DEPUTIES during a raid, made a self defense case, and won."
"Let the record show that a Black man and a White man got off on the SAME charges on the SAME day," politician Barrington Martin II tweeted.
Barrington added that the justice system "isn't perfect, but when it works, IT WORKS." He noted that the mainstream media "can't tell you this because when united…YOU ALL ARE DANGEROUS TO THE STATUS QUO."
"Those who believe Rittenhouse was acquitted because he's white don't want to know about the Coffee case. They believe what they believe and are interested in contradictory facts," commented Fox News senior political analyst Brit Hume.
Conservative commentator Rob Smith said that the Second Amendment "is for all," regardless of skin color. "Beware those who want you to think it's not," Smith warned on Twitter. "Their intentions are not to protect you."
Radio host and legal analyst Michael "Lionel" Lebron noted that Coffee was found not guilty in a jury trial by a judicial system that can administer justice to a non-white defendant. "I believe this destroys soundly the ridiculous myth promoted and propounded by the radical left," the social media personality stated.