Punta Gorda police officers testify in trial of chief

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PUNTA GORDA, Fla. Current and former Punta Gorda police officers testified Tuesday that they didn’t inspect the gun former officer Lee Coel used in the deadly citizens academy shooting.

Some of the officers said they didn’t think the .38-caliber Smith and Wesson revolver, Coel’s personal weapon, was even capable of shooting the live ammunition that killed 73-year-old Mary Knowlton on Aug. 9, 2016.

The testimony was part of day two of the trial of Punta Gorda chief Tom Lewis, who is charged with culpable negligence, a second-degree misdemeanor.

Prosecutors are out to convince the six-person jury that Lewis was ultimately in charge when safety protocols were ignored. But defense attorney Stephen Romine maintains it was Coel who ultimately didn’t follow through.

Jurors were shown a video of a press conference Lewis gave shortly after the shooting in which he said he was “100 percent accountable” for what took place.

But those words were written for Lewis by someone else, and before all the facts of the case were known, former Punta Gorda officer Katie Heck said.

Heck gave Coel the live ammunition he used, believing they were blanks.

The trial is set to resume at 9 a.m. Wednesday.


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