He was a highly trained officer, or so she thought, when 73-year-old Mary Knowlton followed his lead during the Punta Gorda Citizen’s Academy in Southwest Florida Tuesday night.
She was told not to worry, the gun wasn’t loaded with real bullets, as she participated in “shoot, don’t shoot” role playing scenario in front of more than 30 witnesses attending the academy to learn more about the inner workings of their local government.
The Punta Gorda police officer ended up killing her after shooting her several times with live rounds in what the police chief is calling a “horrible accident.”
The incident was witnessed by a photographer from the Charlotte Sun, but the newspaper is only releasing statements from Punta Gorda Police Chief Tom Lewis, who refused to release the officer’s name.
He did, however, ask us to pray for Knowlton’s family, the witnesses to her death and the rest of the police officers on the force.
But we need answers instead of prayers.
Specifically, how in the world can an officer “forget” to replace his bullets with blanks for the exercise in which he was playing the “bad guy” and Knowlton was playing the victim?
Why is even a real gun used for this type of exercise?
Why wasn’t the officer following the two most important rules of gun safety, which is to always assume the gun is loaded and to never point a gun at anybody you are not prepared to shoot?
And why haven’t they released his name so we can determine if this officer has a history of recklessness?
And lastly, why aren’t more witnesses providing his name, specifically, the photographer from the Charlotte Sun, who should also be posting his photos?
Or did police seize her camera or worst, did she voluntarily hand her images over to them?
Instead, the Charlotte Sun is telling us that a woman was “reportedly shot several times by a police officer Tuesday night during a Citizens Academy at the Punta Gorda Police Department.”
Chief Lewis said the officer has been placed on paid administrative leave while the Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigates the incident.
And says he will not be answering any questions to not “jeopardize the investigation.”
Photos from a citizen’s academy class were posted on the police department’s Facebook page showing that the citizens are handed fake guns to participate in the exercise, presumably because they do not have the training to handle a real gun.
It was only two months ago that we reported on a Punta Gorda police officer named Lee Coel who allowed his police dog to maul a man for riding a bicycle at night with no lights.
Coel has participated in the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office Citizen’s Police Academy where he plays the role of the “bad guy.”