Former Punta Gorda Police Officer Lee Coel appealed his firing from the police force Thursday. He was sacked for his part in the shooting death of 73-year-old Mary Knowlton last August during a citizens academy drill. Attorney James Brantley, who is representing both Coel and the Florida Police Benevolent Association, argued that the officer should not have been fired. Brantley’s argument stems around why Coel was the only person held responsible for the shooting death. Police Chief Tom Lewis, though, is charged with misdemeanor culpable negligence and is on paid leave pending an internal affairs investigation. Brantley argued that since Coel’s boss was on leave, the officer should be treated in the same manner.
Meanwhile, surveillance video was released this week from the fatal accident. The tape shows Mary Knowlton walking in front of the group of civilians to take part in a “Shoot-Don’t Shoot” scenario. Coel is seen playing the suspect when he fires his gun- Knowlton then drops to the ground. It took a moment for anyone to react when the elderly woman hit the ground. When officers finally realized she was injured, paramedics were called. Knowlton ended up dying on the way to the hospital.