|Police Chief Tom Lewis|
A 73 year old woman taking part in a "Citizens Academy" exercise with the Punta Gorda Police Department was accidentally shot dead by an officer who was unaware a live ammunition was loaded in the revolver being used.
Mary Knowlton, 73, died after being shot by a police officer during a shoot/don't shoot scenario at a special Chamber Police Night similar to the department's citizen police academy, the chief said.
The Punta Gorda Police Department has identified the officer involved in the shoot/don’t shoot as Lee Coel. Coel was hired by the police department on March 17, 2014.
Coel is frequently seen throughout the community providing department presentations and tours and specifically role-playing in these shoot/don’t shoot scenarios as well as a police presence at youth and neighborhood events, the police department said.
Coel remains on administrative leave while the investigation continues. The police department also said Coel is devastated by what happened and is receiving assistance from the department and the Police Benevolent Association.
According to reports, Coel was asked to resign from the Miramar Police Department after 14 months when he failed to complete an agency field training program.