Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Mary Knowlton Killed In Police Academy Demonstration

PUNTA GORDA, FL. -- Mary Knowlton, 73 was killed accidentally by Punta Gorda police officer Lee Coel with a revolver during a Citizen Police Academy demonstration of a simulated crime scenario yesterday.

On Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2016, the Punta Gorda Police Department hosted approximately 35 civilians from the community for a two-hour Citizen Police Academy, during which time two participants were randomly selected to be put through a “shoot/don’t shoot” scenario in which they make decisions on using simulated lethal force in a live role play.

During the first scenario, participant Mary Knowlton was struck with a live round and was fatally injured. She was transported to Lee Memorial Hospital where she was pronounced dead.

Punta Gorda Police Chief Tom Lewis stated, “I am devastated for everyone involved in this unimaginable event. 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.”
Chief Lewis contacted the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to respond and begin an investigation into the events surrounding this incident. The involved officer has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of this investigation and is said to be with their friends and relatives at this time. 

Florida Department of Law Enforcement personnel are now on scene and have taken command of the investigation. 

The Punta Gorda Police Department said it "realizes the community has many questions about this incident. We also must take great care to not jeopardize the investigation. As the investigation continues and more information is available we will release it."

At a press conference Wednesday afternoon, Lewis, visibly shaken by the trajedy did not offer much detail to the incident other than saying the weapon used was not a standard issue revolver, but would not reveal the exact type of weapon so as to not jeopardize the investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. He said he didn't yet know how live ammunition was mistakenly used during the community event where Knowlton was killed. Public Information Officer Lieutenant Katie Heck discretely shut down the questioning when the matter of the weapon used was brought up and the press conference ended.

Knowlton was married for over 50 years and was a community volunteer at many local organizations.

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