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Minnesota native killed during Florida citizen police academy session

A Minnesota native was fatally shot in a “shoot/don’t shoot” citizen police academy session in Florida Tuesday.

Mary Knowlton, a 73-year-old retired librarian originally from Austin, Minnesota, was among the 35 people to attend the citizen police academy hosted by the Punta Gorda Police Department, a news release says.

She was picked to participate in a “shoot/don’t shoot” scenario, where “they make decisions on using simulated lethal force in a live role play.”

Knowlton was playing the victim when an officer, who was playing a “bad guy,” fired several times at her, the Charlotte Sun reports. Knowlton was mistakenly struck with a live round, the police department’s news release says. She was pronounced dead at a local hospital.

The Charlotte Sun says these role play scenarios are usually safe, and are acted out with fake or empty guns.

Police haven’t given details on how the incident unfolded or why there was live ammunition in the officer’s gun. Punta Gorda Police Chief Tom Lewis said at a news conference Tuesday night he is “devastated for everyone involved in this unimaginable event,” noting the Florida Department of Law Enforcement will investigate the incident.

The officer involved, who hasn’t been identified, has been placed on administrative leave.

According to Knowlton’s Facebook page, she was from Austin, Minnesota, and worked at Scott County Library, before moving to Florida. She also served on the Friends of the Punta Gorda Library board of directors, according to the group’s website.

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