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.
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The Florida police officer who shot and killed a woman during a citizen police academy demonstration has been fired.

The incident happened last August. Mary Knowlton, a 73-year-old retired librarian originally from Austin, Minnesota, attended the demonstration hosted by the Punta Gorda Police Department. She was playing the victim in a “shoot/don’t shoot” scenario when Officer Lee Coel, who was playing a “bad guy,” mistakenly shot her with an actual bullet, killing her.

The City of Punta Gorda sent Coel a letter Thursday explaining that he would be discharged from his position starting Friday, "for the reasons set forth in my February 22 letter to you," the document explains.

According to the letter, the 28-year-old can choose to appeal the decision.

This comes just two weeks after charges were filed against Coel and Police Chief Tom Lewis.

Coel was charged with felony manslaughter and was arrested, while Lewis was charged with culpable negligence, a misdemeanor, according to USA Today.

NBC-2 News said Coel pleaded not guilty to the charges on Wednesday.

WINK News said Coel had been on paid administrative leave since the incident, noting he had a history of complacency, insubordination and questionable decisions. If he’s convicted, he could face up to 30 years in prison and a $10,000 fine, USA Today reported.

The City of Punta Gorda approved more than $2 million in a settlement with the Knowlton family back in November.

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