Punta Gorda police chief vows to remain, make changes

PUNTA GORDA, Fla. — Police Chief Tom Lewis is making a few changes in the wake of the Citizens Academy Shooting that killed retired librarian Mary Knowlton two weeks ago. Still, despite saying in the immediate aftermath that the burden of responsibility for Knowlton’s death fell on him, Lewis said Thursday that he has no plans to resign.

“To think that it’s a good idea to create instability at the police department right now, I don’t think is very wise. I made a commitment to this community when I accepted this chief of police job, and I plan on keeping that commitment,” Lewis said.

Knowlton was shot and killed during a training exercise designed for civilians to learn more about police procedures. Lee Coel, the officer who pulled the trigger, is on administrative leave as the Florida Department of Law Enforcement conducts an investigation.

The Punta Gorda Police Department is reorganizing its armory to avoid mixing different grades of ammunition, and Lewis has banned the use of live firearms from all scenario-based training. Citizens training will continue as long as interest exists, Lewis said.

Even as the department plans to move past the shooting, emotions remain raw.

“We’re still grieving for the Knowlton family,” Lewis said. “I think we’re still grieving with the community.”

 

 

 

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