Lee Coel gets 10 years probation in plea deal for death of Mary Knowlton

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FILE Photo of former Punta Gorda Police Officer Lee Coel and Librarian Mary Knowlton from December 2016. Credit: WINK News.

Former Punta Gorda Police Officer Lee Coel was sentenced to 10 years probation and to pay restitution after a plea deal was reached to avoid trial and jail time.

Coel shot and killed retired librarian Mary Knowlton during a “Shoot Don’t Shoot” demonstration with the Punta Gorda Citizens Academy.

Before Lee County Circuit Judge Margaret Steinbeck, Coel changed his plea from not guilty to no contest on a lesser charge of second-degree manslaughter Wednesday.

He will also pay restitution in an undetermined amount to Mary Knowlton’s husband Gary Knowlton.

Knowlton’s husband gave emotional testimony during the hearing, saying the blame laid with many, not just one.

Coel was set to go to trial on October 22, with charges of first-degree manslaughter in Knowlton’s death during that August 2016 demonstration.

Watch Lee Coel’s statement to the court

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