Mary Knowlton’s Accidental Death Gets Punta Gorda Cop Lee Coel Charged

February 24, 2017 | By Garrett Montgomery More

Mary Knowlton Gary Knowlton Lee Coel

Attorneys for Punta Gorda officer, Lee Coel, are fighting the charges against their client in the sad shooting of Mary Knowlton. Coel was involved in the accidental killing of 73-year-old Knowlton in Florida in the summer of 2016.

The fatal shooting occurred as the police officer and the retired librarian from Minnesota were taking part in what was described as a “shoot/don’t shoot” exercise at the police headquarters in Punta Gorda, Florida.

Mary and her husband, Gary Knowlton, had volunteered alongside over two dozen people in the Citizens Academy training session at the police station. The septuagenarian was chosen to take part in a “shoot/don’t shoot” exercise where she took on the role of a villain while Mr. Coel played a bad cop.

It is not known how such a careless thing could have happened nor who is responsible for it, but a live round was placed in the gun that Mr. Coel was carrying for the training activity. The law enforcer shot and killed Mrs. Knowlton on the spot.

While Mr. Knowlton has found it in his heart to forgive the man, whom unwillingly took the life of his beloved wife and partner of 50 years, the local authorities handling the case were not so forgiving.

This week, the former Punta Gorda officer was officially charged with felony manslaughter by his former colleagues.

In a brief statement to the media, Punta Gorda Police Chief Tom Lewis announced that Coel was also slapped with a misdemeanor charge of culpable negligence.

If convicted, the ex-cop could spend up to 30 years behind bars. The widower, who recently accepted a $2 million settlement from the city, told the media: “I know there was no ill intent, just mistakes.”

The father of two added: “I was standing 10 feet away from her when the guy shot her. I just can’t believe she’s gone, but I have to learn to live with that.”

He went on to reveal that he met her while in high school and she was the love of his life. Coel was an officer for the Punta Gorda police department for two brief years during which he was sued for using excessive force.


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