Former Punta Gorda Police officer seeking PTSD disability for killing retired librarian

Former Punta Gorda Police Officer Lee Coel has applied for a disability pension for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which he claims he now suffers after he shot and killed retired librarian Mary Knowlton during shoot/no-shoot “training” held Aug. 9 at the police department.

If the police pension board grants Coel’s request, he could receive approximately 65 percent of his former $42,000 salary.

The pension board will meet next month to consider Coel’s application.

Coel loaded wadcutters into his .38 caliber revolver instead of blanks before the demonstration, which was presented to Knowlton and other Chamber of Commerce invitees. Coel then shot and killed Knowlton while her husband watched from just feet away. The killing made international news.

Coel was charged with manslaughter for the killing, and was fired after he pleaded not guilty. His criminal case is pending.

Punta Gorda Police Chief Tom Lewis was charged with misdemeanor culpable negligence for his role in Knowlton’s death. His trial begins next week.

My take

Quite frankly, I’ve never seen or even heard of anything this egregious in my life.

Has this man no shame?

To be clear, Coel took the life of a 71-year-old grandmother who was beloved in the community and adored by her family and now he wants to get paid for the trauma that he claims to suffer!

He’s making a mockery of this horrible and tragic death, and he’s dishonoring those with legitimate trauma claims.

I know dozens of young men and women who spent years of their lives serving our country in hellholes around the world. They engaged the enemy. They watched their friends die. They suffered horrific wounds — some losing limbs.

Some still carry their wars with them.  They deserve compassion, care and compensation.

Coel, in my humble opinion, doesn’t deserve shit.

He needs to go away, drop out of the public eye, work on his defense strategy and pray he doesn’t get sentenced to a stretch in prison if he’s convicted of the felony charge.

He’s abused the system enough for now.


About Author

Lee Williams can’t remember a time in his life when he wasn’t shooting. Before becoming a journalist, Lee served in the Army and worked as a police officer. He’s earned more than a dozen journalism awards as a reporter, and three medals of valor as a cop. He is an NRA-certified law enforcement firearms instructor, an avid tactical shooter and a training junkie. When he’s not busy as a senior investigative reporter, he is usually shooting his AKs, XDs and CZs. If you don’t run into him at a local gun range, you can reach him at 941.284.8553, by email, or by regular mail to 1777 Main St., Sarasota, FL 34236. You can follow him on Twitter: @HT_GunWriter and on Facebook @The Gun Writer.


  1. Lynne Roberts on

    Loaded live ammo instead of the blanks???? How? Any Pistol/rifle/shotgun instructor/ gunowner worth their salt knows NOT TO HAVE LIVE AMMO IN A “CLASSROOM”

    • Maybe she forgot to bring cookies to the training exercise and therefore committed contempt of cop. That’ll teach her! :-\
      What a friggin’ moron.

  2. I’m a former soldier and former State Trooper, we practiced with live ammo in the Army during some shoot stations but never in the Troopers in a classroom. I can feel for this man because killing a person is very traumatic, you never forget but you can get used to it. When you have to take a life it effects you even if you are right, but when you are wrong because of your own stupidity it is horrible. I believe he needs treatment and should receive it, but payment for PTSD for the rest of his life NO.

  3. What a Degenerate Moron! First thing you learn in weapons training is to treat every gun as if it were loaded and never point it at someone you would not be prepared to use deadly force against.
    How on earth did this guy become a cop!

  4. Lindette Bourne on

    No there’s no disability for stupidity. And does the Chief have to check EVERYTHING his officers do.

  5. Many of these commenters have no idea how these scenarios work, I’m a 25+ year recently retired big city cop, I DO KNOW how they are supposed to work. Typically whoever is in charge makes sure everyone’s gun is unloaded and that nobody has any live ammo on their person, whether it’s in magazines or loose rounds in pockets, NOBODY HAS LIVE AMMO, PERIOD. This is ultimately the responsibility of the officer-in-charge of that range exercise and they must personally check each participant to ensure EVERYONE’S SAFETY. Clearly this was NOT done, and is a FAILURE on the part of the supervisor running that exercise.

    Is there some culpability on the officer who fired the live rounds? Yes, some, but not as much as the guy in charge of the range who failed everybody in his negligence in not doing his due diligence to keep EVERYONE SAFE. These are STANDARD RANGE SAFETY PRACTICES THAT WERE NOT IMPLEMENTED BY THE SUPERVISOR, HE SHOULD BEAR THE BRUNT OF THE PUNISHMENT HERE.

    • Robert, I agree and disagree with you on this. The supervisor/RSO check certainly should have taken place, but it is a double check intended to ensure the shooter is obeying all safety rules and catch situations where he/she is not. However, the primary responsibility still rests with the person with the gun in their hand. That is and always will be the case in any environment where people, especially adults who should understand their responsibilities, are handling guns. You cannot pass that responsibility on to anyone else. It was the officer’s gun, he loaded it, he pulled the trigger.

  6. I’ve been a soldier, a probation officer, a high risk security contractor in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, and have conducted numerous field training exercises in Active Shooter survival and reacting to fire for people heading off to work in Africa and the Middle East and have never seen anyone bring live ammo into a training scenario. For that matter, I’ve can’t recall ever seeing anyone deliberately point a gun at a trainee and pull the trigger in a classroom. That’s not something you need to do in a shoot/no shoot demonstration. In some situations where movement and fire control were being demonstrated I have seen trainers use a revolver with the cylinder open or a pistol with an empty chamber flag in it. Safety first!

    As for him trying to suck off the taxpayer for his supposed PTSD . . . don’t even get me started on it.

  7. William Ricci on

    He should have been using a blue gun, no weapon that can actually fire a round should be used in any demonstration. This was pure stidity on more than one person. He deserves nothing except jail time

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