Officer, police chief charged in accidental shooting of Punta Gorda woman

Posted at 12:46 PM, Feb 22, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-22 18:07:34-05

CHARLOTTE COUNTY, Fla. -- Charges have been filed against both the Punta Gorda Police officer involved in an accidental shooting last August and the Police Chief.

The State Attorney office announced Wednesday that Officer Lee Coel is being charged with a 1st degree felony manslaughter with a firearm in the shooting and killing of Mary Knowlton.  He has turned himself in at the county jail and has been arrested and processed.

Chief Tom Lewis is being charged with 2nd degree misdemeanor culpable negligence.

On August 9th, 2016, 73-year-old Mary Knowlton was shot and killed during a "shoot/don't shoot" drill conducted as part of a Citizen Police Academy attended by 35 civilians.

Police Chief Tom Lewis called the incident a horrible accident.  “I am devastated for everyone involved in this unimaginable event...Everyone involved in this accident is in a state of overwhelming shock and grief.”

It was later determined that Punta Gorda Police Officer Lee Coel accidentally shot Mary Knowlton with live rounds, instead of blanks.

The Punta Gorda city council has since approved a settlement for over $2 million to the family of Knowlton.

The city has also settled out of court with a man who filed a lawsuit over another incident with Officer Coel.

Coel has been on paid administrative leave since the August shooting.