Woman, Age 73, Accidentally Shot and Killed During Punta Gorda, Florida Citizens Police Academy Role Play Drill

A Florida police officer accidentally shot and killed a 73-year-old woman Tuesday night during a role playing exercise. The program was aimed at improving understanding between police and the community, but something went terribly wrong. David Begnaud has more.

Librarian Mary Knowlton, 73, died after being shot by a “bad guy” role-playing police officer Lee Coel during a “shoot or don’t shoot” scenario at a special Chamber Police Night. The event was a special event similar to the department’s citizen police academy, the chief Tom Lewis said. Knowlton was transported to Lee Memorial Hospital in Fort Myers where she was pronounced dead.

The Punta Gorda Police Department hosted approximately 35 people for a two-hour Chamber Police Night when participants were selected for the “shoot or don’t shoot” scenario in which they make decisions using simulated lethal force decisions. Officer Coel was playing a “bad guy” and fired several times at Knowlton, who was acting the role of the victim.

Punta Gorda police said they believed only blanks were available, but firearm safety experts say several experts say extra steps are supposed to be taken beyond “believing” there is no live ammunition in this type of demonstration.

The extra precautions include …

A minimum of two people should check a weapon to make sure the firearm is not loaded.

Never point a gun directly at a person, even if it is believed to be an unloaded gun.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is conducting an independent investigation.

Witness of fatal Citizen Academy shooting in Punta Gorda speaks out.

Woman killed during FL police training scenario, officer on administrative leave.




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A 73-year-old woman was accidentally killed by a police officer in a volunteer role-play scenario. CBS News’ David Begnaud explains what happened.