A Florida woman who was participating in an 8-week training course was accidentally shot dead by a police officer during a gun demonstration Tuesday, officials said.
Some 30 people watched as Mary Knowlton, a retired librarian from Minnesota, was chosen to participate in a role-playing situation staged by the Punta Gorda Police.
But instead of learning about how to make good "shoot/don't shoot" decisions as they were meant to, those 30 Citizen Police Academy students watched a woman die.
Knowlton was rushed from the police department to a hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
According to Chief Thomas Lewis, the demonstration was meant to instruct the class on making decisions "using simulated lethal force."
The round was meant to be a blank.
"Our entire police department and all of our city leaders are absolutely devastated for everyone involved in this unimaginable event,” Lewis said in a press conference Tuesday night.
“I am asking that if you pray, you pray for Mary’s husband and family and for all the officers and witnesses that involved this incident. Everyone involved is in an overwhelming state of shock and grief."
The victim's son, Steven Knowlton, spoke on behalf of the family, saying in a statement to CBS This Morning: "My mom was a saint. Such a tremendous loss of a wonderful human being and the best mom a kid could ever hope for."
The officer involved has been placed on administrative leave. The Punta Gorda police did not immediately identify the officer involved.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement will investigate the incident.