Punta Gorda officer, police chief charged in citizen academy shooting death

The fatal shooting occurred during a "shoot/don't shoot" role-play scenario. Lee Coel, the officer who fired the shots, was arrested the same day on a charge of felony manslaughter.

Knowlton was a Homecoming queen who married her high school sweetheart and was married for 54 years.

The city's police chief also faces a charge of culpable negligence in the shooting death of 73-year-old Mary Knowlton.

The Florida State Attorney's Office announced Wednesday that officer Lee Coel, who accidentally shot Mary Knowlton, 73, during training at the Punta Gorda Citizen Police Academy, was charged with manslaughter.

The Florida police officer who accidentally shot and killed a retired school librarian in a firing exercise a year ago has been charged with felony manslaughter, authorities announced Wednesday.

Police Chief Tom Lewis was served a summons on misdemeanor negligence charges for failing to provide a safe environment for Knowlton.

Mrs Knowlton was randomly selected to take part in the role-playing scenario at the academy where she was pretending to be a cop. She died shortly afterward at the hospital.

"That's what my mom was about: she was about forgiving", said Steve Knowlton.

Knowlton was the librarian at Parkview Elementary School in Rosemount from 1988 to 2004, then worked in a substitute capacity at other schools in the district through 2013, according to the Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan school district. Knowlton was originally from Austin, Minnesota.

Gary Knowlton, Mary's husband, says he's following her example of faith to forgive instead of focusing on blame and anger. "Her mission was to get books in students' hands and to connect them with stories that would help them develop a love of reading".

  • Leroy Wright