Florida officer sentenced for shooting Minnesota woman during training exercise

Mary Knowlton, 73, was shot by Lee Coel, who believed he was firing blanks

WCCO Radio Newsroom
October 17, 2019 - 10:34 am

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A former Florida police officer was sentenced to 10 years probation for shooting and killing a Minnesota woman during a "shoot/don't shoot" demonstration.  

Lee Coel was conducting the demonstration in August 2016 with the Punta Gorda Police Citizens Academy.  

Mary Knowlton, 73, was shot by Coel, who believed he was firing blanks. Coel says he still can't come to grips with what he did. 

"I can remember trying to, trying to save Ms. Knowlton, still not knowing what had happened to her," he said through tears. "I can see Gary Knowlton hovering over me as I tried to stop the bleeding."

Knowlton was originally from Austin, Minn., but worked for years as a librarian in Rosemount schools. Coel originally pleaded not guilty to first-degree manslaughter, but in a deal reached Wednesday pleaded no contest to second-degree manslaughter.

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