Needing answers, judge pushes ruling for former officer Lee Coel manslaughter charges

Reporter: Gail Levy Writer: Paul Dolan
Published: Updated:
Mary Knowlton and former officer Lee Coel during the Shoot, Don’t Shoot demonstration in Aug. 2016. (CREDIT: Sue Paguin, Charlotte Sun)

Former officer Lee Coel will stay on probation, for now, after shooting Mary Knowlton during a police demonstration in Punta Gorda.

The judge decided to push the ruling into the future because she wasn’t sure if it was in her power or jurisdiction to terminate Coel’s probation.

What makes it tricky for the judge is that Coel hasn’t paid his restitution and Knowlton’s family wants it. That’s because 10-year probation for her death will never be enough.

A picture of Mary Knowlton. (CREDIT: Steven and Mary Knowlton)

Steven Knowlton would love to have one more day with his mom. Although, on second thought, one more day wouldn’t be enough. “She was something she was she was like a light to she just, you know, if you were down, she could lift you up,” Steven Knowlton said. “She just had a presence about her.”

Mary Knowlton’s life ended suddenly when she was shot by former Punta Gorda police officer Lee Coel at a Shoot, Don’t Shoot demonstration in August 2016. “I always wanted to go back in time. And come back to this day before make sure she’s never there,” Steven said. “Make sure the police department knows that he’s got real bullets and make sure nobody gets hurt.”

There were never supposed to be real bullets in the gun Coel fired at Knowlton, but there were. Steven feels like justice was never served. Coel took a plea deal, no jail time for his conviction on a Second-Degree Manslaughter charge.

“It’s kind of like PTSD, you wake up and I picture my mom sitting there spun around with a bullet in her in her shoulder,” Steven said. “And this a horror that was she was probably feeling it just it overwhelms me. And it seems to get worse every year.”

The judge did not set the next hearing date yet, but, she’s challenged the defense and state to bring her an answer on what she’s allowed to do. If she has jurisdiction over the restitution she plans on setting a date when it needs to be paid.

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