PUNTA GORDA –
A woman was killed in an accidental shooting Tuesday evening at the Punta Gorda Citizen Police Academy.
Multiple witnesses tell NBC2 the officer involved in the shooting was Officer Lee Coel.
Controversy surrounded Officer Coel earlier this year after a man sued the City of Punta Gorda and the police department claiming Cole and his K9 went too far during a traffic stop arrest. A video showed Coel sending his K-9 to help take down a bicyclist, and then allowed the dog to stay latched on for nearly two minutes.
Chief Tom Lewis called Tuesday night’s incident a “horrible accident.” He said the shooting happened during a “shoot or don’t shoot” scenario in which they use simulated lethal force in a live role play.
Two participants were randomly selected. Lewis said there were approximately 35 people in attendance.
Lewis said the victim, 73-year-old Mary Knowlton, was “mistakenly struck with a live round.”
Knowlton was transported to Lee Memorial and pronounced dead.
“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,” Lewis said.
City Manager Howard Kunik expressed his sympathy during a news conference Wednesday morning. He called Knowlton a vital part of the community.
“We want to express our dearest sympathy for the family and friends of Mary Knowlton. We are shocked by this horrific accident and are grieving deeply over Mary’s passing,” Kunik said.
Kunik said this incident has had a huge impact on the other participants in the room who saw the shooting. He said the chief immediately called the police chaplain, and they are doing everything they can to support those affect.
The officer involved in the shooting has been placed on administrative leave until the investigation is complete. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is investigating the incident.
Well god dammit. Police authority shooting has been the hottest of hot button issues for the past 3 years and now Florida is all mixed in it with the dumbest shooting of all. First off by all accounts, Officer Coel probably wasn’t the best choice to teach the crowd. Like if you’re going to impart wisdom about a job that gets scrutinized these days for their unfair abusive, excessive use of force treatment towards people, then maybe don’t have an officer who lets his police K-9 maul a bicyclist for an unreasonable amount of time, be the one to do it. I’m not saying getting the desk officer who’s never been out in the field once. You need a seasoned all around officer. Now I don’t know a thing about this cop Coel, but off the top of my head you should get a cop who was a D.A.R.E. officer. Those guys can’t fuck up doing one of these teaching presentations or else, like say switch scenarios, they would end up shooting a little kid in the face. Yea i get they’re just trying to get kids to not smoke weed even though they will in the future probably, but still. Need someone who can work the crowds and is cautious enough to not live fire when you’re just teaching mostly in theory.