No jail time for former Punta Gorda Police officer who shot, killed 73-year-old woman during citizens training exercise

Lee Coel Sentenced to 10 Years of Probation

PUNTA GORDA, Fla. (WWSB) - A former police officer who fatally shot a 73-year-old woman during a citizens training exercise in Charlotte County will not face any jail time.

As part of a deal, WINK News reports Lee Coel, whose case was moved to Lee County, will plead no contest to second degree manslaughter and receive 10 years probation and not serve any prison time in the death of Mary Knowlton.

In August 2016, Knowlton was one of around 35 people participating in a "shoot/don't shoot" exercise during a citizens training academy at the Punta Gorda Police Department when Coel shot and killed her.

Coel was playing the "bad guy" during a role play exercise and fired at Knowlton, who was playing the "victim" during the scenario.

The scenes are usually acted out with fake or empty weapons, but when Coel fired his weapon, Knowlton was hit with live ammunition.

Police say though Knowlton's weapon and ammunition had been inspected before the role play exercise, Coel's was not.

Coel was fired from the Punta Gorda Police Department after the shooting and the former police chief, Thomas Lewis, was fired after the City of Punta Gorda investigated and found his officers did not consistently follow standard safety protocols when conducting citizen training programs.

Lewis went to trial on charges of culpable negligence but was found not guilty by a jury.

Knowlton’s family reached a settlement with the City of Punta Gorda for $2 million.

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