10/17/2017 - U.S: A police procedure expert testifies in the death of a senior citizen in a firearm blank bullet demonstration


In day 3 of the misdemeanor negligence trial of Punta Gorda Police Chief Tom Lewis, and his role in the death of 79 year-old Mary Knowlton who died during a community event held at the department the State's attorneys brought in expert witness Gene Sims, a police academy instructor who's worked with Lee County Sheriff''s Office for over 30 years.

Sims said he had concerns with the safety of the shooting scenario.

"The fact that there was a live firearm in the scenario, the placement of the spectator's in that scenario."

Sims described the safety precautions for handling blank rounds.

"A blank round can cause injury including death, depending on how it may be used and how it’s fired."

And demonstrated how to tell the difference between blanks and live ammunition.

"A can look at the open end of the projectile at this end here, and tell that it has a cardboard insert into it, and no projectile."

Defense focused on Chief Tom Lewis's direct role in the exercise during cross.

And asked about whether Officer Lee Coel followed proper procedure.

"Would this position in the use of a blank, violate the training FDLE gives on how to handle a firearm? Yes."

In August the City of Punta Gorda has fired its police chief following the internal affairs investigation into the shooting death of the 73-year-old retired librarian during a community demonstration last year.

The firing of Tom Lewis was made public on Wednesday in a letter posted to the city's website.

Punta Gorda City Manager Howard Kunik said the internal affairs investigation found the police department followed safety protocol during officer training, "but citizen demonstrations showed an inexplicable departure from those protocols."

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