Son of Librarian Accidentally Shot by Cop Says Family Is Surprised He Didn't Get Time

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A Florida cop who accidentally shot and killed an innocent woman during a police exercise was sentenced to 10 years of probation.

The nightmare happened on Aug. 9, 2016, when retired librarian Mary Knowlton attended a police simulation explaining the use of lethal force, together with 30 other civilians. 

Knowlton role-played a cop in a demonstration while Officer Lee Coel pretended to be a bad guy with a gun. What Coel said he didn't know was that the gun was loaded with live ammunition. He fired four times at Knowlton in the demonstration, killing her. 

She fell to the ground in a moment bystanders apparently thought was still acting. But when Coel went to check on her, he saw otherwise. 

Officers tried to save Knowlton, but she was ultimately pronounced dead at the hospital.

Coel was charged with manslaughter in her death months later and fired from the Punta Gorda Police Department.

He recently pleaded no contest as part of a plea deal and it was ruled Wednesday that he will serve no jail time in the incident. In addition to the probation, he must also pay restitution to the victim's husband, Gary Knowlton, and never seek a job as a police officer again. 

Mary's son Steven said they were surprised Coel didn't get any time behind bars, but he isn't angry. 

"We've harbored a lot of resentment and anger, bitterness, but regardless, anything that happens isn't going to bring her back, and we have to start working on forgiving and moving on with our lives."

Of Coel, he added, "I'm sure he's having a tough time with all of this."


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