The Polk County Sheriff's Office is investigating the death of a man in northwest Lakeland.

  • Police say woman's former boyfriend, shot current boyfriend
  • Clifford Cofer pronounced dead at scene
  • Victim was a lieutenant with Sumter County Fire Rescue

The Polk County Sheriff's Office is investigating the death of a man in northwest Lakeland.

The victim was identified as Clifford Cofer, 27, of Winter Haven. He was a lieutenant with Sumter County Fire and EMS.

The victim was identified as Clifford Cofer. (Photo courtesy: Cynthia Cofer) 

Deputies said Cofer was shot and killed just after 6 p.m. Wednesday outside a home in the 200 block of Alderman Road.

Authorities said Cofer was shot by his girlfriend's former boyfriend, Caleb McKinney, 31, as she was bringing medication to their infant son. Deputies identified the girlfriend as Kayla Stayner, 27.

Deputies said Stayner approached the front door of the home to deliver medicine, and her former boyfriend exited the home with a gun.

Sheriff Grady Judd holds up a mugshot of 31-year-old Caleb McKinney at a press conference August 4, 2016.

Sheriff Grady Judd said McKinney then walked to the front of the car where Cofer was sitting in the passenger seat and shot him through the windowshield five times. Judd said McKinney confessed to the murder and called it cold blooded.

“When asked why he said well, he told the detectives later on, he said, 'I just lost it whenever she texted me and said she was bringing him over to the house,'" said Sheriff Grady Judd.

Deputies found Cofer dead upon arrival. The couple’s child was not injured. His girlfriend’s other child was sitting behind Cofer in the car. He was not physically injured either.

“This five year old child sat directly in the line of fire and watched the male figure in his life killing the man in the front seat. Whenever we tried to put the five year old in a car with, I believe his grandmother, he told the deputy ‘I don’t want to get in the car because I don’t want to get killed,” recalled Judd.

Judd said McKinney then pointed the gun at his girlfriend, and threatened to shoot her. His good friend convinced him not to, so deputies said he then went into the house and threatened to kill himself.

A while later, Polk deputies were able to convince him to exit the home and safely turn himself in. Prior to this incident, McKinney had never been arrested.

Judd said McKinney had been hospitalized under the Baker Act on July 2, after threatening to harm himself and attempting to overdose on pills.

McKinney and Stayner had been dating three and a half years before they broke up four months ago, according to deputies.

Sumter County Fire Rescue Chief Leland Greek said: "Our most heartfelt sympathies go out to the family of Lt. Clifford Cofer. He was a well-liked member of Sumter County Fire Rescue. Our entire agency stands behind his family as we work through this tragic event. We are working on supporting Cofer's family and crew."

Cofer was a lieutenant with Sumter County Fire Rescue. (Photo courtesy: Cynthia Cofer)

Cofer’s mother, Cynthia, calls it a senseless murder.

“Clif never even spoke to that man. He had no interactions with him,” said Cynthia Cofer.

She said her son had recently started seeing Stayner and he knew that McKinney was not happy about the breakup. But, she said he had no idea the man was out to kill him.

“The only thing he told me was that Kayla had said he was stalking her and wouldn’t let go. I got very scared and I told Clif my mother’s intuition tells me that this is going to be bad. Men that are stalkers are dangerous and he could shoot you and you’ll never know it. Three days later, he did,” recalled Cynthia Cofer.  

Cynthia remembers her son as an exemplary firefighter and son, and a bull rider. She said he helped people all of the time, whether on the clock or not.

“I was with him countless times and there’d be a car broke down and he’d stop his truck to make sure that no one hit that car and would put his vehicle there so that no one hit that car and caused anyone harm,” said Cynthia.

Funeral arrangements are pending.