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Punta Gorda Chief releases new details on tragic shooting

Posted: 2:28 PM, Aug 10, 2016
Updated: 2016-08-11 00:00:48Z

(UPDATE) -- The Punta Gorda Police Department has released the name of the officer involved in the tragic shooting death of Mary Knowlton Tuesday. 

The officer was identified as Officer Lee Coel. Officer Coel was hired by the Punta Gorda Police Department on March 17, 2014. He is now on administrative leave. 

Officer Coel recently came under fire a few months ago, after dash cam showed Coel allowing a K-9 maul a man during a traffic stop. That person is now suing the department claiming excessive force. In light of that case, Coel underwent counseling and training. 

Officer Coel was hired by the Punta Gorda Police Department after having been let go by the Mirimar Police Department, because of another incident involving excessive force. 


The Punta Gorda Police Department held a news conference Wednesday afternoon to address the tragic shooting death of Mary Knowlton during a citizen police demonstration Tuesday.

Knowlton was shot three times by an officer Tuesday evening at the Punta Gorda Police Department. The event hosted approximately 35 civilians from the community for Chamber Police Night, a two hour presentation of the Punta Gorda Police Department.

Chief Tom Lewis would not name the officer responsible for the shooting, but said he was placed on administrative leave. When Fox 4 asked Chief Lewis when he would release the officer's name, he indicated that could happen by the end of Wednesday.

During the news conference, Lewis told reporters the type of gun used for the popular "Shoot, Don't Shoot" training simulation was a revolver that had been used in previous training sessions for two years and was only supposed to be carrying blanks, not live ammunition.

Reporters asked Lewis about the protocol for checking the weapon for safety purposes prior to the training session, but Lewis said the state investigation into the matter prevented him from discussing those protocols and whether or not they were followed.

Recognizing that this incident also affected the other participants in the program, as well as many others in the community, the City of Punta Gorda has been in contact Tidewell Hospice who has arranged for grief counseling at no cost. Tidewell is requesting anyone wishing to receive counseling attend a meeting on August 17th at 1:00pm at the Laishley Community Room in Laishley Marina.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is still in the process of conducting their independent investigation.