Over the past few days, Punta Gorda Florida has hit the news for various reasons involving the loss of lives. Earlier in the year, a passenger was run over and killed by a truck, and most recently, a civilian was shot by a police officer during a gun demonstration.
In the first accident which happened at 0250 hrs, Charles Backus Moore was headed North on Park Drive when he made a right turn onto Taralane Drive. Incidentally, the vehicle's tires left the road and continued to drive on the shoulder of Taralane Drive.
His passenger, Mr. Jeremiah Backus, aged 35, got out of the truck as it was in motion and fell onto the road and the right rear tire of the truck ran over him. Unaware of the accident, Mr. Backus Moore continued driving eastwards on Taralane Drive. Moments later, Mr. Backus Moore, turned around and pulled up to his passenger who was now lying unconscious on the ground. Mr. Jeremiah Backus died at 0335 Hrs in the morning in Charlotte Regional Hospital.
More recently, a civilian was fatally shot while participating in a police demonstration conducted by the Punta Gorda Police Department. Mary Knowlton, a 73 year-old librarian, was one of the randomly selected 35-member group to take part in the Punta Gorda Citizen Police Academy drill “shoot/do not shoot” in which the citizenry is trained to make decisions using a simulation of lethal force in a live role-play.
In the simulated scenario, the participants use a mock gun that fired blanks filled with colored detergent. In the demonstration, Mary Knowlton played a police officer while an actual police officer played a villain. When the ‘villain’ fired, the gun had live bullets. She died at the Lee Memorial Hospital.
The officer identified as Lee Coel frequently participated in department presentations, specifically in the “shoot/do not shoot” drills, has been on administrative leave since the incident.
At a press conference, Punta Gorda Police Department Chief Tom Lewis said the incident was horrible and devastating and asked the city to pray for her family. The Florida state Department of Law Enforcement is undertaking investigations, which is the set procedure in all shootings involving police officers.