Friday, February 24, 2017

Fl. gun instructor charged in fatal training accident

A Florida police officer who shot to death a participant in a training exercise was charged with felony manslaughter earlier this week.  USA Today reported:

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.

Her death made national news, but who was Mary Knowlton in life?

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."

Kingfish note: It sure is nice seeing real prosecutors.  


Anonymous said...

Seems very similar to the Gaming Officer negligent shooting. Gross negligence - manslaughter.

Anonymous said...

The facts are virtually identical to Robert Sharp's shooting of John Gorman. I cannot fathom why Sharp has not been indicted or charged with homicide.

Anonymous said...

@ 11:46am

If the family isn't putting up a fuss about the death and viewed it as an accident, then the agency is probably sweeping it under the rug moving along treating it as a non-issue.

Anonymous said...

11:27 - Ya Reckon?

Anonymous said...

If either incident was truly an accidental shooting, do any of you think either officer would be able, in good clear conscience, to use his sidearm in the performance of their duty as a LEO?

Anonymous said...

It's kill or be killed, and the fact that our elite Firearms Instructors, SWAT guys, K9 guys "go that extra mile" to keep the 73 year old Grandmas off the street and 6 feet under is not appreciated by civilians. This guy might have failed his FT program. Have been in two bad dog incidents. He might have sicced Killer the K9 on a guy on a bike, for "no bike light," AFTER shooting Grandma in front of her husband of 55 years. It doesn't mean we should police the profession, buy fewer dogs with minimal training, not issue tricked out M4s to everyone, or suggest that cops keep it under 130 miles per hour on frontage road when pursuing shoplifters out of their jurisdiction. Nope. Let's not be soft on crime.

Anonymous said...

May have been out of revenge for the 2.06 million the family got from the city.

Responsible Use of Capital said...

Just goes to show you that you never know when your time is up. You can do something supposedly safe, like pretend to be the victim with a trained officer supervising, or you can do something incredibly risky, like sending back your lemon pepper chicken wings at the Skybox Daiquiri Bar and Bistro.

Either one can have dire repercussions.

Anonymous said...

In my opinion, neither death was accidental because the necessary and required safety precautions were not taken - both Gorman and Knowlton would be alive today if they would have. However it seems that the public's appetite to prosecute an officer who negligently shoots and kills a fellow officer seems to be much less than when a 73 year old librarian is killed under remarkably similar circumstances.

The case against Sharp was presented to a Grand Jury and returned a no bill, but you must also consider the tone of the report, and the venue.

Anonymous said...

Shot her three times, too, according to witnesses. Good grief!

Anonymous said...

Someone please get in touch with 12:51, his aluminum foil hat fell off.

Anonymous said...

Can they keep shopping grand juries?

Anonymous said...

Same stuff happens with other type cases right here in Mississippi, do I need to remind you that the lady never got indicted for murdering the child in Gluckstadt and the lady on the coast did, and the poor guy in Grenada had to take a plea.

Anonymous said...

Our citizens used to understand that those who "protect and serve" us , be it in the military or law enforcement, accept the burden of responsibility that goes with service including the dangers.
The rules of engagement and safety in both are there because we do not want innocent parties to be killed if it can be avoided or to give those servicing us a blanket license to kill.
Too many of us now seem to feel those serving us should be entitled to be as ignoble and careless and irresponsible with human life as criminals and our enemies.
I doubt either death was intended, but I've no doubt that both officers have no business ever carrying a badge. They just don't have what it takes to be given that sacred duty by a society.

Anonymous said...

I believe you have it backwards, 5:14. The case in Gluckstadt was concluded properly. They got it wrong on the coast and in Grenada. You just like controversy and idiocy.

PittPanther said...

He shot her multiple times? By accident? He kept pulling the trigger? What the hell?

Sounds like something that would happen in RoboCop, not real life.

Anonymous said...

"Someone please get in touch with 12:51, his aluminum foil hat fell off. "

12:51 was apparently trying to be, er, ironic, or sarcastic, or something, and botched it terribly with an incomprehensible mess.

Don't quit your day job, 12:51. And if you were serious, get back on your meds.

Anonymous said...

Training or not training, never point a gun at anything you dont plan on killing.

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