Florida woman shot dead by officer during citizen police academy


A Florida woman was shot and killed by an officer after a role-playing exercise at the Punta Gorda Police citizens academy went wrong Tuesday night. 

The Charlotte Sun reports Mary Knowlton, 73, was shot several times with live ammunition instead of blank rounds by Officer Lee Coel who was doing a "bad guy" scenario with Knowlton, who was playing the victim. Knowlton and her husband were attending a session of the citizens academy, which the Sun reports is a free eight-session course in local government with 35 other civilians. After being shot, Knowlton was taken to a hospital where she was pronounced dead. 

In a statement, Punta Gorda Police Chief Tom Lewis says his department has contacted the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for an investigation into the incident. Coel has been placed on administrative leave. 

"I am devastated for everyone involved in this unimaginable event," Lewis says in a statement. "If you pray, please pray for Mary’s family, and for the officers who were involved. Everyone involved in this accident is in a state of overwhelming shock and grief." 

Knowlton was a career librarian, and her son Steven Knowlton told the Fort Myers News-Press that his mother would have forgiven the officer. 

"She knew he didn't mean to do it," he says. "I know the officer didn't mean for this to happen. I know he's in his own hell." 

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