Family of woman killed in police class gets $2M

Punta Gorda city council members approved  a $2.06 million settlement with the Knowlton family Wednesday, nearly three months after an accidental shooting death during a police simulation, according to the News Press.

Mary Knowlton, a 73-year-old retired librarian, was participating in police night hosted by the Punta Gorda Chamber of Commerce on Aug. 9 when Officer Lee Coel, 28, shot her with a weapon meant for training.

In the settlement, the city admits no liability for Knowlton's and it is exempted from further action by her family.

“The settlement speaks for itself,” City Manager Howard Kunik wrote in an email Tuesday. “We respect the Knowlton family for their willingness to work with us and reach this agreement. We feel it is the right thing to do. In addition, we continue to respect the process the (Florida Department of Law Enforcement) and state attorney are going through.”

Knowlton was playacting as a victim in a “shoot/don’t shoot” scenario, and Coel — who was playing the “bad guy” — shot her several times. She was taken to a local hospital where she died.

Members of Knowlton’s family did not immediately respond to calls for comment.

FDLE conducted an investigation into the officer-involved shooting and submitted its findings to the state attorney’s office, which has not yet made a determination, Kunik said. Until then, Coel will remain on administrative leave.

The Punta Gorda Police Department is still unsure how live ammunition found its way into the gun used by Coel. But since then, officials have made weapons, demonstrations and hiring policy changes.

According to the police department, a safety officer will remain in the room during the event. That officer will be responsible for a first aid kit, an automated external defibrillator and ensuring none of the weapons used for training have live ammunition.


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