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Probation, no jail for ex-Florida officer who shot MN native

Mary Knowlton was killed during a "shoot/don't shoot" drill.

The former Florida police officer who fatally shot a 73-year-old woman during a police drill in 2016 will not go to jail. 

According to the Herald Tribune, Lee Coel accepted a plea deal on Wednesday in connection to the shooting that killed Mary Knowlton, a retired librarian originally from Austin, Minnesota. 

Coel could have faced up to 15 years in prison, but pleading no contest reduced the sentence to 10 years probation and restitution to Knowlton's husband, Gary. Coel also agreed to never seek employment as a police officer again. 

The city's former police chief, Tom Lewis, had also faced charges, but according to the Fort Meyers News Press, a jury acquitted him in June 2017. He was fired shortly after following an investigation.

What happened in 2016

The Punta Gorda Police Department hosted a citizen police academy on Aug. 9, 2016. 

Knowlton was among the 35 people to attend, and she was chosen to participate in a "shoot/don't shoot" scenario. This was meant to be an exercise where participants practiced making decisions using simulated lethal force in a live role play.

Knowlton was playing the victim when Coel, who was playing a "bad guy," fired several times at her with a weapon that was supposed to be loaded with blanks. However, Knowlton was accidentally struck with live rounds.

She was taken to a nearby hospital and died shortly after.

In the days following Knowlton's death, former police chief Lewis said he was "100 percent accountable" for what happened. 

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