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Punta Gorda, Florida Police Chief Tom Lewis is on trial for a charge related to the bizarre death of 73-year-old Mary Knowlton. The department was conducting a tour for 35 civilians who were participating in a Citizen Police Academy, during which Knowlton and one other person were selected to participate in a “shoot/don’t shoot” scenario where they would get to role play a a simulated situation where they would have to decide whether lethal force was appropriate. During this, Knowlton was shot by Officer Lee Coel with what turned out to be a live round in Coel’s gun. Knowlton died as a result.
Prosecutors are arguing that Lewis never established who was responsible for safety checks before such demonstrations, and that someone should have made sure that the weapon was not loaded with live rounds. Because Lewis allowed this to happen without putting safety measures in place, they say, he is facing a charge of culpable negligence, a misdemeanor.
Coel will face a separate trial for first-degree manslaughter.
The City of Punta Gorda has already reached a settlement agreement with Knowlton’s estate and her husband Gary for $2,060,234.23.
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