NAPLES, Fla. Feb 24 2017— The state attorney's office announced Wednesday that Punta Gorda Police Chief Tom Lewis and officer Lee Coel will both face charges in the shooting death of Mary Knowlton, who was accidentally killed during a citizen’s police academy demonstration in August.
Coel has been charged with felony manslaughter and Lewis with culpable negligence, a misdemeanor. Coel has been placed under arrest. Lewis will not be arrested but was given a summons to appear in court.
On Aug. 9, Mary Knowlton, a 73-year-old retired librarian, was participating in a police night hosted by the Punta Gorda Chamber of Commerce when Punta Gorda police officer Lee Coel, 28, shot and killed her with a weapon meant for training.
Punta Gorda city council members approved a $2.06 million settlement with the Knowlton family in November, nearly three months after the shooting.
Knowlton was acting as a victim in a “shoot/don’t shoot” scenario, and Coel — who was playing the “bad guy” — shot her several times. She was taken to a local hospital, where she died.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement conducted an investigation into the officer-involved shooting and submitted its findings to the state attorney’s office.
Coel could get up to 30 years in prison and a $10,000 fine, Steven Russell, state attorney for the 20th Judicial Circuit, said. The chief could receive up to 60 days in jail.
Russell read a statement addressing the charges at the Charlotte County Justice Center Wednesday afternoon. He termed the case as a difficult, somewhat unique and tragic event.
City officials were not available to comment.
"Why did he aim the gun at her and not off to the side," said William Glucksman, a part-time city resident. "It just sounds like a stupid mistake. Unfortunately, stuff happens and people die."