Cop Who Killed Woman in Drill Has Checkered Past

He was forced to resign from previous post
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 11, 2016 11:10 AM CDT
Cop Who Killed Woman in Drill Has Checkered Past
Lee Coel   (Punta Gorda Police Department)

(Newser) – The Florida police officer who accidentally fired real bullets during a role-playing drill, killing a 73-year-old woman, doesn't exactly have a spotless record. During his rookie year with the Miramar Police Department in 2013, Lee Coel, 28, was accused of excessive force on two occasions before investigators determined he had violated department policy; he says he was cleared of the excessive force claims but still forced to resign. Then earlier this year, Coel was sued after setting a police dog on a man riding a bicycle at night without a light; the man had ignored Coel's commands. A disturbing video shows the cyclist screaming during the attack, which lasted almost two minutes, reports the Miami Herald. The cyclist was seriously injured and needed surgery.

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"What he did to my client is criminal. The dog ate part of his armpit muscle. He should have been fired immediately," the cyclist's lawyer says, though an outside expert found the use of force was justified. In the latest incident, police say Coel fatally shot Mary Knowlton at a citizen police academy session attended by 34 others, including Knowlton's husband of more than 50 years. Punta Gorda Chief Tom Lewis says officers were unaware Coel's gun housed live rounds, instead of blanks. A witness describes seeing "anxiety and panic and horror" on Coel's face as Knowlton fell after three shots were fired, reports NBC News. Knowlton's son, 50, says his mom would want him to forgive Coel, per the News-Press, but adds, "I don't know if I can ever get over this." (Read more Florida stories.)

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