Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Florida woman shot dead by officer during citizen police academy

Posted By on Wed, Aug 10, 2016 at 7:05 PM

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." 

Tags: , , , ,

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Orlando Weekly. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Orlando Weekly, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at

Orlando Weekly works for you, and your support is essential.

Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Central Florida.

Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.

Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Orlando’s true free press free.


Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Read the Digital Print Issue

April 14, 2021

View more issues


© 2021 Orlando Weekly

Website powered by Foundation