Personnel file of PGPD Cop involved in accidental shooting reveals checkered past

Coel listed handling weaponry as area of expertise
Posted at 6:51 PM, Aug 15, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-16 06:21:30-04
The personnel file of a Punta Gorda officer under investigation for firing a live round - instead of blanks - during a citizen's academy role-play simulation reveals he listed handling weaponry as an area of expertise.

Officer Lee Coel is currently on administration leave while the Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigates how live rounds were loaded into a revolver being used in a Shoot/Don't Shoot demonstration that killed 73 year-old Mary Knowlton.

Coel's personnel file obtained by 4 in Your Corner reveals he was well respected by his colleagues and Punta Gorda Police Chief Thomas Lewis, who wrote in Coel's first annual evaluation "I wish I had his drive and self motivation."

When reviewing Coel's "interpersonal relations", Chief Lewis wrote Coel "has a presence that tends to calm individuals thus avoiding use of force situations." 

But Lewis also referenced complaints from citizens on Coel's driving during his initial probation period.  An internal memo reveals Coel was driving his police vehicle in a 2014 accident that was deemed preventable by the department.

There was also a 14-day internal investigation following an excessive force complaint from a Punta Gorda man who was mauled by Coel's dog after he stopped him for riding his bike without lights.

Coel was exonerated of any wrongdoing; however an excessive force lawsuit is currently pending against the Punta Gorda Police Department and the city.

In his application to the Punta Gorda Police Department, Coel defended himself from previous excessive force complaints he received while working with the Miramar Police Department.

He was forced to resign following the allegations for failing to meet the requirements of his probation period. Coel said the allegations were unfounded and says he was forced to resign for "two simple policy violations."