A librarian originally from Minnesota was killed in an officer involved shooting during a a “shoot/don’t shoot” scenario hosted by the the Punta Gorda, Florida Police Department on Tuesday.
One participant of the volunteer event, Mary Knowlton, was mistakenly hit with a live round and transported to Lee Memorial Hospital where she was pronounced dead. As noted by the City’s website, the academy “is a free, eight session course of interactive classes designed to provide insight into City government and to develop future leaders through well informed and civically engaged residents.”
Knowlton was one of about 35 volunteers present, and volunteered with another attendee to undergo the scenario which ended in tragedy.
“I am devastated for everyone involved in this unimaginable event,” said Chief Tom Lewis in a statement. “If you pray, please pray for Mary’s family, and for the officers who were involved. Everyone involved in this accident is in a state of overwhelming shock and grief.”
The officer involved in the shooting was hired by the department in 2014 and is on leave pending an investigation which has been taken over by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
The event, for which inert simulated weapons such as blue guns are typically used, is drawing quick fire over safety issues.
Sarasota Herald-Tribune gun writer Lee Williams, himself an NRA-certified law enforcement firearms instructor with three medals of valor picked up in his law enforcement career, blasted the incident as an avoidable negligent discharge.
Punta Gorda Police Chief Tom Lewis called Knowlton’s killing a “horrible accident.”
It was a negligent death, something that could have easily been avoided.
If the Punta Gorda Police Department followed even the most basic rules of firearms safety, the death would never have occurred.
If they adhered to generally accepted training standards, Ms. Knowlton would be alive today.
Police watchdog group Photography is Not a Crime pointed out that the officer involved has a history of controversy including allegations of excessive force and spoke with attorney Scott Weinberg who said, “I’ve been saying for months that this guy was going to kill somebody and now he has killed somebody.”