Woman shot and killed at Florida police academy community event

PUNTA GORDA, Fla., Aug. 10 (UPI) — A woman was accidentally shot and killed Tuesday in a role-playing police academy exercise in Florida, police said.

Mary Knowlton was shot by a police officer as the two took part in a “shoot/don’t shoot” exercise at the Punta Gorda Citizen Police Academy. The exercise was part of a free, eight-session course for 35 local civilians.

“Our entire police department and all of our city leaders are absolutely devastated for everyone involved in this unimaginable event, Police Chief Tom Lewis said at a news conference. “Everyone involved is in a state of overwhelming shock and grief.”

The classes are intended to provide a chance to learn about city government and “develop future leaders though well-informed and civically-engaged residents,” according to the city of Punta Gorda’s website.

During the exercise, participants are required to make decisions about when to use lethal force. But the game was supposed to be using non-lethal rounds.

Knowlton, a former librarian, was “mistakenly struck with a live round,” Lewis said. She died a short time later at Lee Memorial Hospital.

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