A Citizen’s Police Academy session in Punta Gorda, Florida, turned into a devastating tragedy after an officer accidentally shot and killed a participant during the “shoot/don’t shoot” scenario. The authorities have identified the victim as 73-year-old Mary Knowlton.
Knowlton was struck with a live round during a scenario designed to simulate lethal force in live role-play. She was taken to Lee Memorial Hospital where she was pronounced dead.
73yo Mary Knowlton was accidentally shot and killed by PGPD officer during citizen police academy, police say pic.twitter.com/xRmTnwniJ1— Corey Lazar (@CoreyLazarWINK) August 10, 2016
The two-hour live demonstration involved both police and civilians.
“I am devastated for everyone involved in this unimaginable event. If you pray, please pray for Mary’s family, and for the officers who were involved,” said Police Chief Tom Lewis. “Everyone involved in this accident is in a state of overwhelming shock and grief.”
The Citizen Academy, according to local news channels, “is a free eight-session course offered to as many as 35 accepted applicants who are interested in learning local civics.”
Lewis said the role-play participants were randomly selected and were supposed to make decisions simulating lethal force.
The officer, whose name is being kept under wraps, shot Knowlton several times. Lewis said he has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.
News-Press.com reported that the officer’s gun was supposed to hold blanks but held live ammunition instead.