The Florida cop who shot and killed a woman during a citizen police academy “shoot/don’t shoot scenario” training exercise will serve no jail time.
Lee Coel was a Punta Gorda police officer when he shot and killed Mary Knowlton in 2016. Knowlton was a 73-year-old retired librarian who enrolled in the citizen police academy to show her support for police. She was killed in front of 35 other people, including her husband.
Coel, who had a history of abusing citizens, said he believed the gun he was using contained blanks. Instead, it contained real bullets.
He was charged with felony manslaughter with a firearm and was fired from his job shortly after. He was facing up to 30 years in jail as well as a $10,000 fine, according to NBC News.
Last week, he agreed to a plea deal that will have him serve ten years of probation with no jail time.
So just how did Coel confuse live ammo for blanks?
According to Fox News:
Coel used a .38 caliber Smith & Wesson revolver during the demonstration. Coel reportedly loaded it with bullets given to him by another officer. That officer told investigators they were moving and “had some old ammunition they wanted to get rid of.” The officer believed the two boxes of ammunition given to Coel were filled with blank rounds.
Coel reportedly tested the .38 revolver with the ammunition he was given during a demonstration at the CCSO shooting range sometime in July 2016, weeks before Knowlton’s death.
Investigators determined Coel did not realize he was shooting live rounds at the range.
Coel reportedly used the same ammunition on August 9th when Knowlton was shot. Investigators say he stored the ammunition in the back of his K-9 squad car; in a separate place from the ammunition for his duty weapon.
Tom Lewis, who was Punta Gorda police chief at the time, was charged with culpable negligence and found not guilty in 2017.
The Knowlton family received a $2 million settlement.