Alleged would-be cop killer facing 2nd trial
A man accused of planning a war with police is now facing trial for allegedly threatening a York County Prison correctional officer and smashing a prison cell window.
Howard Timothy Cofflin Jr. on Wednesday morning waived his right to a preliminary hearing on the threat case.
He is now scheduled for formal arraignment in York County Court on the charges of making terroristic threats, institutional vandalism and criminal mischief. After Cofflin waived his hearing via video from the prison, District Judge Barry Bloss Jr. scheduled his court arraignment for Feb. 17.
Cofflin, 57, formerly of Loganville and more recently of Dundalk, Maryland, has been incarcerated for about a year on charges including attempted murder and terrorism for allegedly planning to go to war with police.
The allegations: State police said that on Sept. 6, corrections officer Garry Bowser made Cofflin take down a piece of paper he had put up over the window of his jail cell, documents state.
Cofflin responded by shouting epithets at Bowser, then invited him into his cell so Cofflin could snap his neck and kill him, according to documents.
As Cofflin spoke, he struck the glass, shattering it, police said. As Cofflin was taken out of his cell, he allegedly told Bowser: "I'll get you in the hall."
Two days later, state police interviewed Cofflin, who talked about why he did what he did, according to police.
"When I struck the window, I was attempting to kill him," state police quote Cofflin as saying. "I did a palm strike and still have the bruise. ... I wanted to shove his nose bone up into his brain. I told him I wouldn't hesitate to do it again."
Trooper Matthew Eicher, who filed the criminal charges, said Cofflin told him he "harbored ill will" toward Bowser because Cofflin "feels he is at war with the York County government."
'Going to war': Before being arrested, Cofflin "was going to war with police," state police Capt. Adam Kosheba has said.
“Disgruntled” by court rulings against him, Cofflin had been planning a massive attack on law enforcement, state police have said.
Cofflin had been building improvised explosive devices from propane tanks and also building an AR-15 rifle, piece by piece, with parts bought online, according to police.
He was planning to use those to murder his ex-girlfriend, who still lived in the house they once shared, and then kill the state troopers who showed up to arrest him, police allege.
Propane tanks: Police say he had bought several propane tanks, and he told them he was going to coat them in Tannerite so they would explode when he shot them. He told them he was going to put them around his property and blow them up, killing the cops who came to get him, police allege.
His anger stemmed from a protection-from-abuse order his then-girlfriend of 20 years was granted in August 2015 after she said he beat her and threw hot water on her. He began telling people he was looking for a way to "take her out" — that he was “looking for a gun, but an ax would be faster,” according to charging documents.
In September 2015, Coffin was charged with misdemeanor counts of making terroristic threats against the woman, according to authorities.
Alerted by attorney: In October 2015, attorney Seamus Dubbs, the lawyer Cofflin had hired to represent him on these charges, warned state police of Cofflin's threats, saying the Pennsylvania Bar Association's ethics hotline advised him he could waive attorney-client privilege and report the threats, police said.
It was on Oct. 22, 2015, that Cofflin confided to Dubbs he’d acquired body armor and was building an assault rifle and that when he was done, he was planning to use force to take back the house he’d lived in with the ex-girlfriend, documents allege.
Troopers tracked down Cofflin at his mother's house in Dundalk, where he'd moved after the PFA was granted, and brought him in the next day for questioning, documents state. Police said that at one point in a recorded conversation he “freely” laid out his plan to troopers.
Supplies: Cofflin said he'd bought a gas mask, body armor, night-vision goggles and more, according to police. He told police he’d been trying to get tungsten bullets that he said could pierce riot shields and body armor, according to police.
Cofflin also had been working on building improvised explosive devices, made from propane tanks augmented by the binary explosive Tannerite, which he believed he’d be able to buy at a gun show, documents allege. Police said he planned to put nails and bolts on the outside of the homemade bombs in an attempt to cause further damage with shrapnel.
In that case, he remains charged with two counts of attempted first-degree murder, one count of attempted first-degree murder of a law-enforcement officer, two counts of terrorism, three counts of aggravated assault and one count each of making terroristic threats and threatening to use a bomb. A trial date has not been set.
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.