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News Story
Updated: 10/03/2017 03:15:04PM

Mary Knowlton’s widower: ‘Life will never be the same’

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Undated courtesy photo, circa May 2015, from the Facebook page of Mary Knowlton. Knowlton, 73, was accidentally shot and killed on Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2016 in Punta Gorda, Florida, by a police officer in a role-play exercise at a citizens training academy meant to help members of the community understand law enforcement tactics. According to a Facebook page belonging to Knowlton, she was originally from Minnesota and had worked as a librarian.

SUN PHOTO BY RUSTY PRAY

"As soon as I got there I asked if she was still alive. They told me to step into a room and we’d talk," Gary Knowlton said of the death of his wife of 55 years, Mary, who was shot by a police officer during a demonstration.

SUN PHOTO BY SUE PAQUIN
From left, Accreditation Manager at Punta Gorda Police Department Gloria Sepanik and Mary Knowlton listen as Capt. Jeffrey Woodard explains how to hold a gun properly while a PGPD deputy looks on.

SUN PHOTO BY SUE PAQUIN
Punta Gorda Police Chief Tom Lewis with Mary Knowlton and Capt. Jeffrey Woodard in the background during the Citizens Academy moments before Officer Lee Coel shot and killed Knowlton.

Sun photographer Sue Paquin captured this image of Punta Gorda police officer Lee Coel as he fired a round that struck 73-year-old Mary Knowlton, who was standing on the opposite side of the police car. Knowlton later died as a result of her injuries.

SUN PHOTO BY MICHELE HASKELL

Family and friends of Mary Knowlton filled the First United Methodist Church in Punta Gorda for the service to celebrate Mary Knowlton's life. Steve Knowlton is consoled during the celebration service of his mother, Mary's, life.

SUN PHOTO BY MICHELE HASKELL

Mary Knowlton was shot and killed during a training class for the Punta Gorda Citizens Acadamy. Officer Lee Coel has been placed on administrative leave until the FDLE finishes its investigation. The gun that Coel used during the shoot/don't shoot scenerio fired live ammo instead of blanks.

SUN PHOTOS BY RUSTY PRAY

A portrait of Mary Knowlton and her husband, Gary. They retired here in 2001.

SUN PHOTOS BY RUSTY PRAY

A photo of Mary Knowlton as a younger woman. Knowlton, 73, advocated tirelessly in library and education issues.

SUN FILE PHOTO

Mary Knowlton at a fundraiser last year.

Andrew West/The News-Press

Punta Gorda police officer Lee Coel Is escorted out of the Charlotte County Jail with his attorney Jerry Berry after posting bond. He was charged with felony manslaughter in the death of Mary Knowlton.

PHOTO PROVIDED

Punta Gorda police officer Lee Coel confronts Mary Knowlton during a shoot / don't shoot role-play scenario on Aug. 9, 2016, during a Citizen's Academy class.

By RUSTY PRAY

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It’s just something they always did together.

Gary and Mary Knowlton were in the habit of taking a morning walk in Punta Gorda. Every day, they would drive from their home in Punta Gorda Isles to Fishermen’s Village. They’d park, then walk a couple miles. Sometimes they would stop for coffee. Always, Mary knocked on the window of John Wright’s office at the Punta Gorda Chamber of Commerce.

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