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Florida Officer Who Fatally Shot Retiree at Police Drill Fired

Lee Coel's firing comes two weeks after he was charged with felony manslaughter in connection with an August incident that led to a woman's death.
Lee Coel and K-9 Spirit.
Lee Coel and K-9 Spirit.via WBBH / PGPD

The Florida police officer who fatally shot a 73-year-old retiree during a public training exercise last year is out of a job.

Lee Coel, who joined the Punta Gorda Police Department in 2014, was fired effective Friday, according to the city's disciplinary decision letter obtained by NBC News.

The letter says Coel, 28, can appeal the decision and is also entitled to a liberty interest hearing, in which he can attempt to clear his name in a public setting.

Coel's firing comes two weeks after he was charged with felony manslaughter with a firearm in connection with the August incident that claimed the life of retired librarian Mary Knowlton. He faces up to 30 years in prison and a $10,000 fine if convicted.

Lee Coel and his K-9, Spirit.Punta Gorda Police Department

Coel, who has pleaded not guilty, could not immediately be reached for comment Friday.

Punta Gorda Police Chief Tom Lewis also faces a misdemeanor culpable negligence charge for his role in the incident and remains on administrative leave. He has said in a previous statement that he holds himself "100 percent accountable."

Knowlton had been playacting as a victim during a "shoot/don't shoot" exercise with about three dozen other participants, including her husband of 55 years, when a live round struck her, police said. Coel had fired the fatal bullet, although Lewis at the time said only blanks were supposed to be used during the citizen police academy.

Related: Witness Recounts Fatal Shooting of Florida Woman During Police Drill

Coel was placed on administrative leave, and in November, the Punta Gorda City Council approved a more than $2 million settlement with the Knowlton family.

It was revealed shortly after the shooting that Coel had a checkered work history. He was investigated by internal affairs for an October 2015 arrest during which a man was mauled by his police dog for at least two minutes. The mauling was caught on police dashcam and went viral.

Coel was also asked to resign from a previous post with the Miramar Police Department in Florida in April 2013 for "failure to satisfactorily complete agency field training program."