Police chief found not guilty of negligence in death of MN woman

CHARLOTTE COUNTY, Fla. - A Florida police chief has been found not guilty of negligence in the death of a Minnesota woman who was shot and killed during a police training demonstration.

A Punta Gorda police officer mistakenly shot Mary Knowlton, 73, last August during a Citizens Academy role-play scenario. The retired librarian was a native of Austin, Minn. before relocating to Florida. 

Punta Gorda Police Chief Tom Lewis was charged in the incident with misdemeanor culpable negligence for failing to prevent Knowlton's death. A jury found Lewis not guilty on Thursday, saying they don't believe the chief should be held responsible for the actions of one of his officers. 

The officer who fired at Knowlton, Lee Coel, was charged with first-degree manslaughter. He will face trial next year.

Knowlton was acting 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.

Following Thursday's verdict, WBBH reports Knowlton's son, Steve, said they will continue to fight for justice in her honor. 

"Obviously my mom was murdered," Steve told WBBH. "It's not considered that. No checks on the gun and it just makes no sense at all. Right now I just have to take this in and we'll get over this. We'll move on. We'll keep fighting."

© 2017 KARE-TV


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