Punta Gorda, FL — She only intended to support police — whose collective, national reputation has been sullied by countless questionable killings — so, Mary Knowlton attended the Citizens Academy to try and understand the dangers of policing firsthand.

Instead, the 73-year-old retired librarian discovered too late why the pervasive fear of law enforcement in the United States is not only perfectly justified, it’s sound advice — Punta Gorda Police Officer Lee Coel fatally shot Knowlton during a demonstration for which she volunteered — because the inexcusably inept cop had loaded live instead of blank rounds in his firearm.

Coel and Punta Gorda Police Chief Tom Lewis have both been charged over the August 9, 2016, shooting — the former has pled not guilty to felony first-degree manslaughter, the latter, with second-degree misdemeanor culpable negligence.

Now, local network WINK has obtained video of the tragic shooting — which shows moments of confusion and shock in the aftermath of Coel’s demonstration gone horrifically awry.

Designed to be a training scenario for dozens of civilians attending the Academy’s session, Coel sported a face mask and hooded sweatshirt to give the appearance of a thug — Knowlton ironically volunteered to play the role of victim.


Emerging from the crowd of 35 civilian pupils, Knowlton takes her position as instructed for Coel’s demonstration. When Knowlton raises the blue simulation gun, loaded with “soap bullets,” the officer fires — and she immediately crumples to the ground.

Moments tick by without any movement from the crowd of shocked onlookers, Coel, nor any of the other officers present for the supposedly safe “shoot, don’t shoot” demonstration — until Coel abruptly grasps something amiss and rushes to Knowlton, additional officers quickly follow.

Gary Knowlton, the victim’s husband — and most of the civilian attendees, according to a report from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement — thought his wife had simply acted the part of the thug’s shooting victim.

“I was maybe 10 feet away from her and watched this patrolman who was the bad guy aim right at her and shoot,” the widow explained, according to the FDLE report, which was released in March. “She went down and we thought that was part of the show.”

As video continues, a swarm of Punta Gorda police attend to Knowlton and summon paramedics to the scene.

“He turned her over and she looked horrible, blood all over the place, and I thought, ‘Oh my God,’” Knowlton continued. “There was maybe five people who were trying to help her, pushing her stomach and stuff like that.”

FDLE investigated and found Coel did not intend to shoot or kill Knowlton — but several seemingly pertinent details revealed in a report still raise numerous suspicions as to how the now-terminated officer came to have live rounds of ammunition in his weapon — and how he managed to retain a position on the force, at all.

Punta Gorda police Lt. Katie Heck said in the FDLE report she “probably” gave Coel a box of lethal ammunition, instead of the “similar in shape and size” blank rounds as would be needed for the exercise — though neither round resembled those found in his service weapon — likely because the cop used his personal .38-caliber Smith and Wesson revolver.

Prior to killing Knowlton, Coel received sharp rebuke from a local attorney for allowing his K-9 partner to brutalize a man — for riding his bicycle without appropriate lights.

Whatever the reason live rounds pierced the elderly librarian’s flesh, the irony in this tragedy is not lost on the innumerable scores of friends and relatives, whose loved ones have been killed by the same police the State expects its citizens to trust.

Knowlton believed in police — albeit, more likely the specter of Mr. Protect-and-Serve, Officer Friendly — but paid the ultimate price in the unlikeliest of circumstances, while seeking to prove acerbic criticism of law enforcement officers wrong.

“My mom was a saint,” Knowlton’s son, Steven, told CBS This Morning in a statement shortly after her untimely death. “Such a tremendous loss of a wonderful human being and the best mom a kid could ever hope for.”


READ MORE:  Florida Cop Accidentally Shoots, Kills 73-yo Librarian As Crowd Watches in Horror

Claire Bernish began writing as an independent, investigative journalist in 2015, with works published and republished around the world. Not one to hold back, Claire’s particular areas of interest include U.S. foreign policy, analysis of international affairs, and everything pertaining to transparency and thwarting censorship. To keep up with the latest uncensored news, follow her on Facebook or Twitter: @Subversive_Pen.
  • The Cat’s Vagina

    I still don’t understand why an actual firearm had to be used. Fucking CHILDREN are able to “play cops and robbers” without killing people, so maybe we should look into their methodology!

    • irvingwood

      People become relaxed about guns from being around them so much. Rules and procedures slacken, attention is focussed elsewhere, she trusted that as a cop he knew what he was doing. How many cops like this moron are out there still risking people’s lives just by being in uniform?

    • William Keen

      Well, they can’t play that game at school anymore or they get charged with ‘brandishing a firearm/finger’!

  • There is no such thing as an “unloaded gun.”

    • irvingwood

      There is also no such thing as a ‘safe’ gun. For that reason alone the US should get them,if the Street and out if homes immediately. It may take decades, but it can be done.

      • There is no such thing as a safe sharp object, then. All knives are unsafe. Doctors are more unsafe than firearms because they kill over six times more people than firearms and five times more than motor vehicles. There are more gun owners now than at any other point in history and firearms deaths are lower than they were in the 1990s. If the government tried to take firearms, it would not end in decades. It would end in 48 months with a full on revolution.

      • William Keen

        Why don’t YOU go live somewhere that doesn’t ‘allow’ guns for non-criminal citizens?

  • John C Carleton

    The USA, domestic military, the leg breakers, bag men, enforcers for the crime cabal, do love murdering innocent people.

  • Bob Btme

    anyone who knows the first thing about firearms is that you don’t point a gun at anyone. You definitely NEVER point the gun at someone and pull the trigger! Insane. He should have been locked up the minute he sic’d his dog on some guy bicycling.

  • tom browne

    really dumb “game” allowed a psycho killer to snuff out an innocent life.

    • irvingwood

      Who was also a cop!

  • irvingwood

    When are you people going to learn that guns are bad for society and should be banned everywhere, no exceptions? To preserve some nebulous “right” that freeer societies don’t seem to need, Americans are prepared to countenance endless gun violence, both accidental and deliberate, right across the land. Only recently has the Supreme Court, a reactionary and conservative one, decided to cut the ‘right to bear arms’ from it’s original purpose in the making of a militia. It’s so sad that otherwise sensible people need this right to extend their arm and point it at another person, and fire a bullet into them. The power this exercise confers, the masculinity, the feeling of control and domination, fills some primitive need in Americans that comparable societies don’t experience and don’t feel any the less safe. In actual fact they are more so. It is this compact that every gun owner has to make with his fellow citizens……to give up the gun to preserve their safety.

    • William Keen

      Only a liberal/communist/democrat would think that disarming everyone EXCEPT the crooks is the way to make everyone safer!
      This just proved that it ISN’T the good citizen that we have to fear.

  • Ibcamn

    also,she had stated that there was overdue books by that cop,he owed thousands and thousands of dollars to the library for the dr suess and national geographic[african tribe women]magazines and he owed for stealing toilet paper from the library also……so maybe that is why he gunned her down in cold blood,didn’t want it getting out,i mean come on,dr suess,im guessing the cop is retarded,considering what he did in broad daylight to that women in front of all those witnesses,got to be prettystupid to murder someone like that….or would this be a hit,wasn’t hired,so no,just personal i guess……so i wonder how long a paid vacation he got out of this,for doing such a clean job,perfect cover for the crime,the department must have gave him a bonus and a promotion on top of it.cops are the criminalls,the new terrorists threat to american lives,its so you can’t even go to the library without wondering if your gonna die,or forget a turn signal and die,forget your bike light and get chewed to shit by a rabid dog and its owner……the biker that just got smashed off the road and murdered by the cops,the video just came out and its bad,the ciop just came up behind him and smashed into his tire,locked it up and sent the rider to valhalla in short work…..the criminal cop never thought about it twice,just killed the guy for a speeding ticket…..murder you for jaywalking was a nasty one too,or selling tax free cigarettes can get you murdered in cold blood by these criminals,one guy was sitting in his car doing nothing,cop strolls up and asked for his papers,the man questioned the reason and the criminal just busted the window,for nothing,the cop just decided to break some glass to go after the guy,for sitting in his car…….hmm….we could die today,it isn’t over yet

  • SmotPoker

    The real trick now that he is terminated from that department is to find out where that abusive POS will turn up next with a badge, a gun, and the authority of the state behind him to abuse the citizenry.