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Officers charged in accidental killing of woman, 73, during police exercise

PUNTA GORDA, Fla. -- Prosecutors in southwest Florida have filed charges against an officer who accidentally shot a woman to death during a citizens academy “shoot/don’t shoot” exercise, as well as the officer’s boss.

State Attorney Stephen Russell announced Wednesday that Punta Gorda Police Officer Lee Coel has been charged with felony manslaughter and faces up to 30 years in prison. Police Chief Tom Lewis has been charged with misdemeanor culpable negligence and faces up to 60 days in jail.

Fatal Florida police drill 03:04

Authorities say 73-year-old Mary Knowlton was taking part in a roleplaying scenario Aug. 9 when she was mistakenly struck with a live round. The retired librarian was taken to a hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

Coel was placed on administrative leave at the time.

At the time of his wife’s death, Gary Knowlton told CBS Miami that it was important for him to follow his wife’s example of forgiveness and faith instead of embracing anger or blame.

“I think it’s a whole series of errors. I can’t control that stuff and I know there was no ill intent, just mistakes,” Knowlton said.

It wasn’t immediately clear if Coel or Lewis had attorneys.

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