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Officer Accidentally Kills Elderly Woman During Lethal Force Simulation

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Eric Lieberman Deputy Editor
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An elderly librarian was shot and killed after attending a community event that showcases how police departments operate.

73-year-old Mary Knowlton arrived at the Punta Gorda, Fla., police station Tuesday night because she was a participant of the citizen police academy, according to The Washington Post.

Officers asked for two volunteers in the group of 35 to contribute to a lethal force simulation. The exercise’s purpose is to demonstrate when officers choose to pull the trigger and the scenarios are supposed to be played out with fake or unloaded weapons.

Playing the hypothetical victim, Knowlton was struck with an actual bullet and was immediately sent to a nearby hospital where she was pronounced dead.

In a press conference video obtained by The Washington Post, Punta Gorda Police Chief Tom Lewis said “two participants were randomly selected to be put through a ‘shoot-don’t shoot’ scenario, in which they would make decisions on using simulated lethal force in a live role play.”

Lewis expresses how heartbroken the police department and city are following this “unimaginable event.”

Jake Grussing, the director of the library that Knowlton worked at, said she worked at the library since the 1980s and has been a tireless member of the community.

“She was a vibrant, outgoing person who was really dedicated not only to libraries, but also to serving the community,” Grussing told the Washington Post.

This community event takes people interested in seeing the intricacies of local law enforcement on a two-hour course. (RELATED: Philando Castile Shooting Becomes More Clear, Still A Lot Of Unanswered Questions)

It is not yet known why the officer was using a real weapon, why that weapon was loaded, and why the safety wasn’t on.

“I have requested that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement conduct an independent investigation into the events surrounding the incident,” Lewis explained.

The involved officer has been placed on administrative leave.

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