Accused robber dead after Powell robbery

By: Mike McCarthy
By: Mike McCarthy

Knox County (WVLT) - The Knoxville man who was shot while allegedly robbing a home in Powell passed away late Saturday afternoon at UT Medical.

According to the Knox County Sheriff's Department, Tilvis Coffey, 42 broke into the Powell home around noon on Saturday.

A teenager who was home alone at the time hid and called his grandparents for help.

When his grandfather showed up, gunfire erupted.

"It's scary," said neighbor Marsha Cline as she clutched her cat in fear. "It's hard to believe these things happen in broad daylight, right where you live."

Just across the street the accused burglar was down in the yard of the home he allegedly tried to rob on East Copeland Road

He'd been shot once in the head.

"Somewhere around 12:08 this afternoon we got a phone call saying someone had tried to break into the residence here," said Chief Deputy Tom Spangler of the sheriff's department.

Spangler's investigators say that someone was Coffey, a 42 year-old Knoxville resident with a long rap sheet.

It was Matthew Sakhleh, a 14-year-old middle school student who was inside the home alone.

"He went and hid and called his mother," Spangler said.

Then his mother called his grandfather, Harry Smith, 58 who lived nearby.

"He was able to get up here and when he got into the house, he confronted the burglar," Spangler said.

According to investigators, that's when Coffey ran outside, towards Smith's wife.

"The grandfather gave warning to stop," Spangler said, "the next thing we know, the suspect had been shot."

"It was real loud," said Kristen Waters, another neighbor.

Coffey died later Saturday afternoon in the hospital.

The Sakhleh family said they'd rather not talk on camera today, but they did say Matthew's grandfather's main concern inside the house was his grandson's safety.

Now some neighbors are questioning their own safety.

"Powell's the only place where you could feel safe there for awhile," said Waters. "Now there's so much stuff going on that you can't feel safe anywhere."

Cline feels the same, thanks to what she says has been a slew of other recent break-ins.

"It's down the street from us and its one street over, in the house next to my youngest son," she said. "We'll all be watching for it, all the neighbors right here will."

The sheriff's department says Coffey has an extensive criminal history that includes theft, aggravated robbery, and probation violations.

They also said that Harry Smith holds a valid gun permit.

It is still too early to know whether he'll face charges, but the investigation is still on-going.

We will continue to bring you the latest on this story as it develops.


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  • by metal on Dec 18, 2007 at 05:48 AM
    dudes, its MEDAL not metal. he had enough metal (bullets)
  • by ME Location: KNOXVILLE on Dec 17, 2007 at 03:30 PM
    thank you for being a hero. the government wants to increase gun laws but the criminals are going to have access to guns and weapons regardless of the laws. it is time for the citizens to take back our cities and protect our homes and family.
  • by RealityCzech Location: Feet Firmly Planted on Dec 17, 2007 at 03:02 PM
    Uh, it's MEDAL, guys. I think Mr. Smith has plenty of metal, though some of it is in what's left of Mr. Coffey. Something tells me Mr. Smith doesn't want any recognition for this; he simply did what he felt he had to, and it probably was the hardest thing he's ever done. His daughter says he's torn up about it. Who wouldn't be? Coffey didn't leave him much choice, but I doubt that any human being with a heart and a conscience can pull a trigger, take a life (even a scumbag like Coffey) and feel GOOD about it. Say a prayer for Mr. Smith; that he'll find piece, and be able to reconcile whatever doubts or regrets he may have, about what happened.
  • by james Location: knoxville tn on Dec 17, 2007 at 09:20 AM
    Thank you so much for reporting such a bold act of heroism. Harry Smith should be rewarded for his actions not only did he protect his family he also helped society by removing a problem pest, a criminal.
  • by friend Location: powell on Dec 17, 2007 at 06:16 AM
    I will say aprayer for them Mr.Smith did nothing wrong he is my HERO!The People of Powell are behind you 100%.
  • by Steve Location: Harrison, Tn on Dec 16, 2007 at 08:10 PM
    Thank God there are sheepdogs defending the sheep from the wolves. Its high time citizens stop putting up with the lawlessness that is sweeping through our communities. What better message to send to the criminals than, "we will defend out families, our homes, and our property to the death"? Let criminals be forewarned that when they break into a home, they are risking their life to do so. The threat of jail or prison has stopped being a deterrent. The police are unable to protect the citizen and have become record keeps of crime rather that preventors of crime.
  • by Baaba Location: Knoxville on Dec 16, 2007 at 05:52 PM
    "There's something happening here What it is ain't exactly clear There's a grandpaw with a gun over there Telling 'em they got to beware I think it's time we stop, protect our children, what's that sound, grandpaw is loading another round. Everybody look what's going down" Grandpaw needs a metal!!!! Thanks Mr. Smith from one grandpaw to another!!!!
  • by scot Location: powel on Dec 16, 2007 at 02:59 AM
    thanks to high gas prices it will get worse. give the man a metal and more ammo

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