Skip to main content

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. 

Next Up

Screen Shot 2022-01-28 at 10.38.41 PM

North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem dead at 68

His office announced he had passed away 'unexpectedly' Friday.

Karl-Anthony Towns, Chris Finch

Suns get hot, Timberwolves fall in Phoenix

A scorching performance in the fourth quarter sent the Wolves to a loss in the desert.

Mats Zuccarello

Zuccarello helps Wild spoil Lundqvist's retirement party

After Henrik Lundqvist's jersey was hung to the rafters, Zuccarello led a 3-2 win.

Screen Shot 2022-01-28 at 5.04.00 PM

David Arquette gives shoutout to MN's F1rst Wrestling on James Corden show

The Hollywood actor wrestled at at a F1rst Wrestling show at First Avenue in early 2019.

Best Buy - jjbers, Flickr

6 charged in Black Friday mass thefts at Twin Cities Best Buys

The group stole from three Best Buy stores that afternoon, the charges say.

Nicollet County Bell Jan 2022 4

Thieves steal large bell from rural MN church, don't get far with it

The bell was found in a ditch with tow ropes around it.

covid

COVID: More help coming to Minnesota hospitals, Walz says

More than 200 medical professionals are coming to help at short-staffed hospitals.

Screen Shot 2022-01-28 at 9.04.12 AM

Suspect arrested after falling asleep in vehicle at rest stop

The man was sleeping in a stolen vehicle in the parking lot of an I-94 rest area.

DOminos pizza flickr mr blue maumau

Charges: Edina man threatened to shoot up Domino's Pizza

He claimed a delivery driver had flipped him off, the charges say.

carvana vending machine

Carvana seeking to build vehicle vending machine in Twin Cities

The online car dealership submitted a letter of intent to buy land in the metro to build a fulfillment center.

Kwesi Adofo-Mensah

Coller: New Vikings GM Adofo-Mensah needs to be ruthless

Kwesi Adofo-Mensah needs to make some big, difficult decisions, writes Matthew Coller.

Patrick Graham

Report: Vikings to interview Giants' Patrick Graham for head coach

Graham coached with the Patriots under Bill Belichick for six years.

Related

City fires Florida officer who fatally shot MN native during a police drill

Last August, Mary Knowlton was killed during a citizen police academy in Florida.

Florida officer charged in shooting death of MN native during citizen police academy

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

Officer who shot Philando Castile is charged with manslaughter

Officer Jeronimo Yanez is being charged for shooting and killing Philando Castile.

Screen Shot 2019-07-18 at 9.10.30 AM

Minneapolis officer who shot fleeing suspect is identified

Officer Illya Kuznedtsov discharged his weapon during a pursuit with a suspect in September.

Man shot during funeral in Cloquet

Police have arrested the suspect.

6 people demand Mpls. officer be fired after he shot into their vehicle

The police officer fired one shot after the car hit his squad.

Charges: Man drove stolen car straight at police before officer fired shots

A Minneapolis man is accused of driving his car directly at police.

BCA officer who fired at a wanted Crookston man has been identified

He's been placed on administrative leave while authorities investigate.