June 07--ARLINGTON -- As police closed in to arrest him on an aggravated robbery warrant Tuesday, Alexzander Rye Coan barricaded himself in an apartment bedroom with two women and made at least two last phone calls.
"He called his mother and he told her how much he loved her and he said he couldn't talk, and they got off the phone," his maternal grandmother, Carla Hernandez, said Wednesday. "Then he called me and he told me that he loved me with all of his heart. He said, 'Do not ever forget that, Nana. I love you with all of my heart.'"
As Coan continued to name the relatives he loved, Hernandez was overcome with fear.
"I said, 'Honey, I can tell something is terribly wrong. What can I do to help you? Tell me what's happening,'" Hernandez said. "He said, 'Nana, you can't help me anymore. I just need you to know that I love you with all my heart.'"
Hours later, an immediate relative who had fallen asleep with the television on awoke and saw Coan's mug shot on the screen. The news report said Coan, 23, had been killed after shooting an Arlington SWAT officer in the head.
On Wednesday, Hernandez struggled to make sense of how the grandson who loved being outdoors, fishing and catching bunnies could now be gone and accused of such crimes.
"Drugs, I believe, were the problem because I know the heart and soul of that boy," Hernandez said. "I know that he's being characterized as a cop killer and an armed robber, but there is a different side to Alex. I think he felt he had dug himself into such a deep hole that he couldn't get out. ...
"I am so very sorry, as is all of Alex's family, that he placed himself in a situation where he harmed the SWAT officer. I think drugs had to be have involved with that. I absolutely do."
The injured officer, Bryan Graham, was released from John Peter Smith Hospital on Wednesday and returned home to recuperate.
The bullet entered his right temple and exited behind his ear but did not penetrate his skull, SWAT officer Charles Crawford said at a news conference at Arlington police headquarters Wednesday.
"A few centimeters in another direction, and we might have had a different outcome," Crawford said. "We're very grateful for that."
Arlington police said Wednesday that Coan and his girlfriend, Jade Nycole Simon, were apparently holding the second woman, described as an acquaintance or friend, against her will in the apartment when the shooting occurred Tuesday evening.
"They have a history. They've known each other for some period of time, so they were together at that location," said Tiara Richard, an Arlington police spokeswoman. "At some point, they refused to let her leave. In fact, she was physically assaulted as she tried to leave that apartment."
Simon, who suffered cuts from broken glass during the shooting, was arrested on suspicion of aggravated kidnapping and on outstanding traffic warrants. She was in the Arlington Jail on Wednesday with bail set at $100,995.
Fort Worth police had been trying to arrest Coan on a felony aggravated robbery warrant late Tuesday afternoon when fugitive officers tracked him to the apartment in the 600 block of East Arkansas Lane in Arlington.
Fort Worth robbery Sgt. Joe Loughman said Coan was wanted in the April 19 armed robbery of a clerk at the Valero Drivers Travel Plaza in north Fort Worth.
Loughman said Coan is also believed to be responsible for robberies at three other Fort Worth locations: the Subway at 5625 Crowley Road on May 6, the Panda Express at 3140 S. Hulen St. on May 9 and the A1 convenience store at 3251 North Freeway on May 11.
Loughman said fugitive officers had knocked on the apartment door and encountered a man who motioned toward the bedroom when asked for Coan's location.
"When they called him [Coan] by name, he answered," Loughman said.
But Loughman said Coan refused to leave the bedroom. When the fugitive officers determined that two people were with Coan, they alerted Arlington police, who dispatched patrol officers and the SWAT team.
Richard said the tactical officers were in place in the apartment when they heard gunshots in the bedroom. Knowing that at least one hostage was in the room with Coan, the officers -- their weapons drawn -- entered with Graham in the lead.
"This was a hostage rescue at that point," Richard said.
Upon entering the room, Graham was shot in the head. Officers returned fire, striking Coan, but the number of shots and who fired them have not been determined, Richard said.
The medical examiner's office had ruled that Coan died from "multiple high velocity gunshots wounds" of the chest, buttocks, right leg and left arm.
Crawford told reporters Wednesday that Graham "performed at the level of a hero."
"He put his life on the line trying to rescue a hostage," Crawford said. "Hostage rescues are the hardest job we have."
Graham never lost consciousness and has experienced no memory loss, Crawford said. Colleagues described him as a family man and dedicated officer who even from his hospital bed made it clear that he couldn't wait to get back to work.
"At the scene, he was concerned about two things: 'Did I do my job right, and is my family OK?'" Crawford said.
Struggles with drugs
Hernandez said Coan had struggled at a young age after he and his younger brother found their grandfather dead in his bed. She said Coan began using drugs in junior high and could not finish high school because he was in juvenile detention.
Birdville school district officials said Coan attended Haltom High School in 2003 and withdrew in early 2004.
"He became involved with an element in school that was completely outside the value system of our family that he was raised in," Hernandez said.
When Coan got out of juvenile detention, Hernandez said, he lived with her for a time.
"We encouraged him to get into a GED program and he just was so confident. He said, 'You know, Nana, I've got a good personality for sales. I need to get on my feet and then I'll be able to do that.'"
But drug use continued to derail his plans.
According to Tarrant County court records, Coan was convicted in 2007 of misdemeanor possession of a prohibited weapon and was sentenced to 180 days in jail.
In September 2008, he pleaded guilty to robbery in exchange for four years' deferred-adjudication probation for a Haltom City incident in which he robbed a man and struck him with a truck. His probation was revoked two months later after he failed to report to his probation officer, and he was sentenced to three years in prison, records show.
He was released in October 2011 but was back in jail in January, charged with unauthorized use of a vehicle in Arlington and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon in Benbrook. The Benbrook case, in which Coan was accused of stabbing a man on New Year's Day, was no-billed by a Tarrant County grand jury, records show.
At time of the shooting, he was wanted on warrants in the Arlington case and on a new charge of bail jumping, records show.
Like 2 different people
A former girlfriend of Coan's, who asked not to be identified, said Coan was a different person when on drugs. She said he had worked for a carpet-cleaning business while they dated and was incredibly smart.
"He was a really good person," she said. "He's funny and really sweet, but when he starts using drugs, you could just tell he was always hiding something and he was paranoid. He started being weird about everything. He was just always worried he was going back to jail."
Hernandez, who had experience in drug and alcohol abuse counseling, said she could see a difference in her grandson's personality when he used drugs.
"When he was using, there was arrogance about him and there was a detachment from him and there was always remorse," Hernandez said. "... Alex had reached the place where he would use anything. I think he just needed release from the pain and the guilt.
"He didn't ride his tricycle around his mother's home and decide that he was going to shoot at police officers rather than be a fireman. That was not his goal in life."
Hernandez said she just wishes that police had called her or Coan's mother and given them a chance to talk their son out of the apartment.
"We've got a boy that was loved with all our hearts that we are going to have to bury and live without," Hernandez said. "I am so sorry for officer Bryan Graham and I am so thankful that his wife has a husband and that his children have a father, and what Alex did, there is no way that any of us can condone that. But Alexzander is our family and is our world too, and we've lost a very huge piece of it."
Hernandez said her grandson's last phone calls to his mother and her were "a gift that he gave to his family."
"I think he did it for us, not for himself, because he knew that he was loved and he needed for us to have that comfort," she said. "I think he just felt he couldn't go back to prison."
Staff writer Patrick M. Walker contributed to this report.
Deanna Boyd, 817-390-7655
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