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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