Ex-Florida police officer who killed woman during drill gets no jail time

Posted at 10:23 AM, Oct 18, 2019

CHARLOTTE COUNTY, Fla. — There are new developments in the case of a former Florida police officer involved in a deadly shooting at a citizen's academy event in 2016.

A judge accepted a plea deal in Lee Coel's manslaughter case Wednesday. Coel, a former Punta Gorda Police Department officer, pleaded no contest to a second degree manslaughter charge.

Under the agreement, Coel will not serve any jail time and gets 10 years probation. He will no longer be allowed to work in law enforcement and will serve community service time.

Coel is accused of shooting and killing Mary Knowlton with a gun that was supposed to be loaded with blanks not bullets.

In 2016, Coel was performing a "shoot/don't shoot" exercise with the police department. Knowlton, a 73-year-old retired librarian, volunteered to participate in the public demonstration.

She was fatally shot during the exercise when Coel fired the gun.

According to Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Coel obtained what he thought was blank ammunition from Lt. Katie Heck, a former K-9 officer and his immediate supervisor.

He was later fired and charged with first degree manslaughter in the case. That charge has now been changed to second degree manslaughter.

The former officer will also pay restitution to Knowlton's husband.

This story was originally published by Rachel Loyd on WFTX.