Family, friends grapple with Punta Gorda Citizens Academy shooting

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PUNTA GORDA, Fla. — Struggling with the memory of seeing his wife of 55 years fatally shot in front of him, Gary Knowlton said he believes there was no “ill intent,” but a “series of errors” that led to his wife’s death.

maryknowlton“I just can’t believe she’s gone … but I have to learn to live with that,” Knowlton said, holding back tears while speaking of his wife, 73-year-old Mary Knowlton. “I was standing 10 feet away from her when the guy shot her.”

Gary Knowlton said his wife volunteered to participate in the “shoot/don’t shoot” demonstration gone wrong that ultimately claimed her life Tuesday during a Punta Gorda Citizens Police Academy class.

“I didn’t sleep the whole first night and cried a lot,” he said.

He said he’s trying to follow his late wife’s example of forgiveness as he grieves.

“I’ve learned that I can’t control that stuff and I know there was no ill intent, just mistakes.”

Despite the heartache, Gary Knowlton said, “if I hold a grudge against them, it’s only gonna hurt me cause in the long run I’ll just sit there and suffer with my torment.”

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