Son of tragic shooting victim mourns loss of loving mother

Posted at 7:53 PM, Aug 10, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-10 20:34:39-04

PUNTA GORDA, Fla. -- A mourning son shares his grief with Fox 4, nearly 24 hours after his mother was tragically killed during a Citizens Police Academy class. 

73-year-old Mary Knowlton, a board member with "Friends of the Punta Gorda Library" was accidently shot to death while taking part in a "shoot/ don't shoot" role- playing situation. The demonstration was supposed to teach the class of 35 about making decisions using simulated lethal force.

But the gun the officer used turned out to be loaded with live ammunition. That Officer, Lee Coel, has been placed on administration leave. 

Steve Knowlton, Mary's son, is facing that hard reality, that he lost his hero. 

"You go through fits of anger crying, like what were they thinking" Steve says. He is still trying to wrap his mind around how a night of fun for his parents could end in such a nightmare. 

" My thoughts were why was she in that situation, you know. Why wasn't someone else, another cop playingthat role. Why was anyone aiming a gun at someone." 

Mary was playing the role of the victim, and the officer was portraying the "bad guy". Mary's husband witnessing the final moments of his wife's life. 

"He's just in shock. He was right there when it all happened and at first they thought she went down acting until they pulled her over and saw she was pretty shot up." 

According to Punta Gorda Police, the officer was using a real gun. Why that gun was loaded with real ammunition, and why no one realized this before hand is currently under investigation. 

Steve says his mother was only there to show her love and support for law enforcement, and despite losing his hero, Steve says he forgives the man who pulled the trigger.

"I know that police officer didn't mean for this to happen, I'm sure he's in a living hell right now. We all forgive him."