Punta Gorda police chief found not guilty in accidental shooting death case

Punta Gorda Police Chief Tom Lewis

PUNTA GORDA, Fla. (WFLA) — A jury found the Punta Gorda police chief not guilty of culpable negligence in the accidental shooting of Mary Knowlton at a Citizens Academy, according to our NBC affiliate in the area.

Earlier this week, Chief Tom Lewis went on trial for failing to prevent the woman’s death at the police department.

Librarian Mary Knowlton, 73, joined a ‘shoot don’t shoot’ exercise last August with Punta Gorda police officer Lee Coel. Officer Coel meant to fire blank bullets, but accidentally fired a live round that ricocheted off a car and killed Knowlton.

Prosecutors said Chief Lewis deserved some of the blame for the incident, but the defense argued that he did everything he could to make sure it was a safe environment.

The jury deliberated for about three hours before finding Lewis not guilty.

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