High school football player, girlfriend shot to death in Delaware home invasion

Photo: William Bretzger/The News Journal

High school football player, girlfriend shot to death in Delaware home invasion

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High school football player, girlfriend shot to death in Delaware home invasion

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Two 17-year-olds were fatally shot Monday morning in a house near Wilmington’s Market Street corridor.

Wilmington Police have identified one of the victims as Christian Coffield who played for Dickinson (Wilmington, Del.) High School’s football team this season. Police identified the other victim as Janiya Henry, Coffield’s girlfriend.

Christian Coffield (Photo: William Bretzger, The News Journal)

Coffield and Henry had a 3-month-old son, who was not harmed in the home invasion that occurred about 4:30 a.m.

A Wilmington Police spokesman didn’t answer questions about the circumstances leading to their deaths.

But neighbors in the first block of West 26th Street said the victims, Coffield and Henry, were shot during a home invasion.

“I heard the mother yelling, ‘Call 911. Call them for help,’ ” said Jamir Harper, a neighbor who was awakened by ruckus next door.

Harper said he walked outside and found the woman, Coffield’s mother. She told him at least three masked men held her and others in the basement at gunpoint Monday morning before shooting the two teens.

“Somebody held them at gunpoint and told them not to move,” he said.

Henry’s cousin, Jasmine Roy, said she had just seen the young mother a couple of days before. They got their hair done together.

“I just can’t believe it,” Roy said. “She got a son, that’s all I’m worried about. You know, the baby, he’s a baby. He’s innocent. I just think she was at the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Roy described Henry as fun and outgoing. Everything Henry did was for her baby son, Roy said.

“She just wanted a better life for him,” she said. “We grew up in Wilmington. Everybody wants better for their kids, for the next generation, that’s really what it is about.”

About 1:30 p.m. Monday, authorities removed the bodies, covered in white sheets, from the house.

Family and friends watched solemnly, comforting each other as the teens were placed on stretchers and loaded into the state medical examiner’s truck.

Many had waited outside the brick rowhome for the bodies to be removed. Some, such as Deborah Gilmore who lives nearby, said they were disappointed they did not see any elected official at the scene to address residents.

“We need to work to clean up our city,” said the 59-year resident. “Too many lives are being lost. Churches, children, parents, everyone, needs to take a stand … we’ve got to march to take our city back.”

Gilmore thought crime had gotten worse and that Mayor Mike Purzycki wasn’t capable of addressing it: “He needs to talk to us, not sit behind a desk and make decisions.”

The number of shootings and homicides in Wilmington is up from last year, according to The News Journal’s shooting database. The city saw a drop in shootings and shooting deaths in 2018.

Twenty-four people have been shot, six of them fatally, so far this year. That’s a jump from last year when 15 people were shot, four of them fatally, during the same time period.

Half of the city’s six homicides this year have occurred this month and Wilmington Police are providing few details about those killings.

Police have not provided the name of the 29-year-old Dover man killed in the city’s West Center City neighborhood on March 6.

“Depending upon the circumstances of each individual investigation, the details we are able to release can sometimes vary,” said David Karas, the department’s spokesman. “This department continues to release information when such dissemination does not jeopardize ongoing investigations or public safety. We also regularly release detailed CompStat reports as well as releases about arrests, indictments and other law enforcement action and case updates.”

Police are also not providing details about non-fatal shootings, such as last Thursday’s double shooting that took place about three blocks from Monday’s double killing. In that incident, police have not provided one of the victim’s age or gender.

Anyone with information about this incident is encouraged to contact the Wilmington Police Department at 302-576-3990. Information can also be provided to Delaware CrimeStoppers at 800-TIP-3333 or delawarecrimestoppers.org.

This is a developing story. Check back with Delaware Online for more information.

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