Woman Accidentally Killed During Police Demonstration on When to Use Lethal Force

A 73-year old woman attending a “Citizen’s Police Academy” in Punta Gorda, Florida was accidentally shot with a live round during a gun demonstration yesterday evening. The victim, Mary Knowlton, was rushed to Lee Memorial Hospital but died shortly after arriving, reported Wink News.

Knowlton along with 35 others had been taking part in a free community steward training course. According to its website, the course is designed to provide insight into city government. For the police academy part of the program the group had been on a tour of Punta Gorda’s police station, met some of the officers and at the time of the incident, were engaged in an exercise meant to address the use of lethal force by police.

As part of this exercise Knowlton and another participant had been randomly chosen to take part in a demonstration of the police’s best practices for “using simulated lethal force,” explained Police Chief Thomas Lewis in a statement to the press.

In the scenario Knowlton, a librarian by profession, and her partner were pretending to be two citizens engaged in an altercation. Across from them, a yet unnamed officer was demonstrating to the group when it would be appropriate to offload a firearm. Typically this part of the exercise would be conducted using a fake or unloaded weapon. The demonstration took a tragic turn, however, when the officer shot at Knowlton with live ammunition.

Describing the event as a “horrible accident,” Lewis further said in his statement that everyone present at the time of the accident is in “a state of overwhelming shock and grief.”

A full investigation into the shooting is currently underway by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the officer in question has been placed on administrative leave. 

Unfortunately, it's less likely that this incident will help emphasize a need to shift the national focus from demonstrating use of lethal force to better ways to de-escalate violence. Watch the full Wink News report below.

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