Punta Gorda Police Chief Tom Lewis acquitted in fatal citizens academy exercise

Posted at 12:52 PM, Jun 30, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-30 13:28:12-04

PUNTA GORDA, Fla. (AP) - Jurors have found a Florida police chief not guilty of culpable negligence in the death of a woman who was accidentally shot during a citizens academy "shoot/don't shoot" exercise.

News outlets report that Punta Gorda Police Chief Tom Lewis was acquitted on Thursday.

Authorities say former officer Lee Coel mistakenly shot and killed 73-year-old Mary Knowlton during a role-playing scenario last summer. Prosecutors had argued that Lewis, as Coel's boss, was partially responsible.

Lewis' attorney told jurors that it was the officer's failure to provide standard safety checks that led to the retired librarian's death.

Coel has been charged with manslaughter, and his trial is set for next year.