In the small South Florida town of Punta Gorda, a 73-year-old retired librarian was accidentally shot and killed by a police officer in front of 30 fellow adult classmates on Tuesday evening. According to CBS News, Mary Knowlton had been called upon to “role play” at the Punta Gorda Police Department headquarters during a free eight-session course. This particular lesson focused on lethal-force decision making and teaching citizens when to shoot and when not to. An officer, whose name has not yet been released, mistakenly opened fire on Knowlton during the demo; the gun was supposed to be filled with blanks, not ammunition.
Local CBS affiliate WINK News reports that Police Chief Thomas Lewis spoke at a press conference following the tragedy, calling the shooting a “horrible accident,” adding: “Our entire police department and all of our city leaders are absolutely devastated for everyone involved in this unimaginable event. I am asking that if you pray, you pray for Mary’s husband and family and for all the officers and witnesses that involved this incident. Everyone involved is in an overwhelming state of shock and grief.”
CBS reports that the officer involved in the accidental shooting has been placed on administrative leave. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is conducting an investigation into this tragedy.