Florida “Hero” Accidentally Shoots Elderly Librarian

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The surveillance video showing Punta Gorda police officer Lee Coel shooting and killing a retired librarian during a “shoot/don’t shoot” citizen’s academy training exercise last year was obtained by a local television news station, showing the “hero” cop dressed in a hoodie and playing the role of a thug before pulling the trigger.

But it was obvious Coel was a thug long before he shot and killed Mary Knowlton, a 73-year-old retired librarian who joined the academy to show her support for police at a time when “hero” cops were receiving negative press for killing unarmed citizens.

However, these signs were ignored by Punta Gorda Police Chief Tom Lewis despite receiving strong warnings from a local attorney after Coel was recorded on dash cam video allowing his police dog to maul a man for riding a bicycle with no lights.

“Two months ago, I was yelling like Chicken Little that the sky was falling but nobody did anything about it,” said attorney Scott Weinberg last year after the Knowlton shooting, who represented the man on the bicycle.

“Nobody in government had the stones to do what was right. If they had fired him back then, this woman would still be alive.”

Now both Coel and Lewis have been criminally charged for their negligence during the August 9, 2016 shooting.

However, Coel, who was supposed to be shooting blanks during the training exercise, ended up using real bullets for reasons that are not clear other than the fact he was the last person who should have been leading a gun safety training exercise.

According to WINK, which obtained the video:

Newly released surveillance footage shows the moment former Punta Gorda Police Officer Lee Coel shot and killed 73-year-old retired librarian Mary Knowlton in August during a “shoot-don’t shoot” training exercise at a citizens police academy.

Knowlton is seen striding to the front of a group of dozens of academy classmates who appear in the video. She takes her position for the training exercise, and Coel opens fire with his personal weapon, which was loaded with real bullets.

Knowlton falls to the ground, but for a few moments, no one else moves. A Florida Department of Law Enforcement report revealed most of those present, including husband Gary Knowlton, thought her fall was simply an act and all a part of the training scenario.

“I was maybe 10 feet away from her and watched this patrolman who was the bad guy aim right at her and shoot,” Gary Knowlton said. “She went down and we thought that was part of the show.”

The video next shows Coel running toward her, and other officers jumping into action and calling paramedics.

“He turned her over and she looked horrible, blood all over the place, and I thought, ‘Oh my God,’” Knowlton said. “There was maybe five people who were trying to help her, pushing her stomach and stuff like that.”

Her husband said police would not allow him to ride in the ambulance with his wife. They also sent him to the wrong hospital.

Coel, who is facing up to 30 years in prison, has since pleaded not guilty to first-degree manslaughter. Lewis, who was charged with culpable negligence, faces up to 60 days in jail. He remains on paid administrative leave.

Coel, who was fired over the incident, is appealing his termination and has a hearing set for today, according to WINK.


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  1. Clovers routinely argue that “Only police and military personnel should be permitted to have guns, because they are trained experts. Ordinary civilians are unqualified to have guns, and allowing them to do so would endanger the public”.

    In fact, studies have shown that hero cops shoot and kill innocent people 11 times more frequently than ordinary civilians do.

    This particular hero cop violated all four rules of gun safety.

    Jeff Cooper’s Rules Of Gun Safety


    There are no exceptions. Do not pretend that this is true. Some people and organizations take this rule and weaken it; e.g. “Treat all guns as if they were loaded.” Unfortunately, the “as if” compromises the directness of the statement by implying that they are unloaded, but we will treat them as though they are loaded. No good! Safety rules must be worded forcefully so that they are never treated lightly or reduced to partial compliance.

    All guns are always loaded – period!

    This must be your mind-set. If someone hands you a firearm and says, “Don’t worry, it’s not loaded,” you do not dare believe him. You need not be impolite, but check it yourself. Remember, there are no accidents, only negligent acts. Check it. Do not let yourself fall prey to a situation where you might feel compelled to squeal, “I didn’t know it was loaded!”


    Conspicuously and continuously violated, especially with pistols, Rule II applies whether you are involved in range practice, daily carry, or examination. If the weapon is assembled and in someone’s hands, it is capable of being discharged. A firearm holstered properly, lying on a table, or placed in a scabbard is of no danger to anyone. Only when handled is there a need for concern. This rule applies to fighting as well as to daily handling. If you are not willing to take a human life, do not cover a person with the muzzle. This rule also applies to your own person. Do not allow the muzzle to cover your extremities, e.g. using both hands to reholster the pistol. This practice is unsound, both procedurally and tactically. You may need a free hand for something important. Proper holster design should provide for one-handed holstering, so avoid holsters which collapse after withdrawing the pistol. (Note: It is dangerous to push the muzzle against the inside edge of the holster nearest the body to “open” it since this results in your pointing the pistol at your midsection.) Dry-practice in the home is a worthwhile habit and it will result in more deeply programmed reflexes. Most of the reflexes involved in the Modern Technique do not require that a shot be fired. Particular procedures for dry-firing in the home will be covered later. Let it suffice for now that you do not dry-fire using a “target” that you wish not to see destroyed. (Recall RULE I as well.)


    Rule III is violated most anytime the uneducated person handles a firearm. Whether on TV, in the theaters, or at the range, people seem fascinated with having their finger on the trigger. Never stand or walk around with your finger on the trigger. It is unprofessional, dangerous, and, perhaps most damaging to the psyche, it is klutzy looking. Never fire a shot unless the sights are superimposed on the target and you have made a conscious decision to fire. Firing an unaligned pistol in a fight gains nothing. If you believe that the defensive pistol is only an intimidation tool – not something to be used – carry blanks, or better yet, reevaluate having one around. If you are going to launch a projectile, it had best be directed purposely. Danger abounds if you allow your finger to dawdle inside the trigger guard. As soon as the sights leave the target, the trigger-finger leaves the trigger and straightens alongside the frame. Since the hand normally prefers to work as a unit – as in grasping – separating the function of the trigger-finger from the rest of the hand takes effort. The five-finger grasp is a deeply programmed reflex. Under sufficient stress, and with the finger already placed on the trigger, an unexpected movement, misstep or surprise could result in a negligent discharge. Speed cannot be gained from such a premature placement of the trigger-finger. Bringing the sights to bear on the target, whether from the holster or the Guard Position, takes more time than that required for moving the trigger finger an inch or so to the trigger.


    Know what it is, what is in line with it, and what is behind it. Never shoot at anything you have not positively identified. Be aware of your surroundings, whether on the range or in a fight. Do not assume anything. Know what you are doing.

  2. Far more sophisticated devices have begun to appear on the scene, above all, video systems and micro-computers adapted for domestic use.

    Together these will achieve what I take to be the apotheosis of all the fantasies of late twentieth-century man — the transformation of reality into a TV studio, in which we can simultaneously play out the roles of audience, producer and star …

    All this, of course, will be mere electronic wallpaper, the background to the main programme in which each of us will be both star and supporting player.

    Every one of our actions during the day, across the entire spectrum of domestic life, will be instantly recorded on video-tape. In the evening we will sit back to scan the rushes, selected by a computer trained to pick out only our best profiles, our wittiest dialogue, our most affecting expressions filmed through the kindest filters, and then stitch these together into a heightened re-enactment of the day.

    Regardless of our place in the family pecking order, each of us within the privacy of our own rooms will be the star in a continually unfolding domestic saga, with parents, husbands, wives and children demoted to an appropriate starring role.

    — JG Ballard, 1977


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