Boston: Commander says he didn’t fire fatal shot


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Harry Tuttle
October 28, 2004, 11:50 AM
Commander says he didn’t fire fatal shot

http://nsnlb.us.publicus.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20041028/NEWS02/110280055/-1/news

By DENISE LAVOIE, The Associated Press
Published: Thursday, Oct. 28, 2004



BOSTON - The police commander in charge of crowd control the night an Emerson College student was killed during raucous Red Sox celebrations fired four rounds from a pepper-spray pellet gun, but did not fire the fatal round that struck a college student in the eye, his lawyer said Wednesday.

Deputy Superintendent Robert O’Toole fired the weapon in an attempt to rein in out-of-control fans who were climbing on the rafters of Fenway Park’s famed Green Monster and a sign at the Cask ‘n’ Flagon, a popular bar near the ballpark, said his attorney, Timothy Burke.

Burke said two rounds fired by O’Toole struck the restaurant sign, and a third struck the chest of a fan who had repeatedly ignored police orders to get down. A fourth round, fired later that night by O’Toole, struck a fan who had climbed the pilings to the Green Monster, and refused police orders to get down, he said. That fan was struck in the buttocks area, Burke said.

The rounds fired by O’Toole did not strike anyone in the head, including Victoria Snelgrove, 21, of East Bridgewater, who died hours after being hit in the eye socket with a pellet fired by police on Lansdowne Street.

“No one was aimed at or shot at in the face,” Burke told The Associated Press.

“The four rounds that were fired as I’ve described them are the extent of his firing of the weapon.”

Burke also disputed reports that O’Toole was not trained in the use of the weapon, which uses compressed air to fire pellets filled with pepper-like spray.

He said O’Toole attended a five-day seminar in preparation for this summer’s Democratic National Convention in Boston. During the seminar, held in Ithaca, N.Y., O’Toole received training in the weapon and fired it at least 10 times, Burke said.

“He is fully qualified to use this type of weapon system,” Burke said.

Police are conducting an internal investigation into Snelgrove’s death, and Police Commissioner Kathleen O’Toole, who is not related to Robert O’Toole, also has appointed a former federal prosecutor to head an independent review. The investigation is expected to take months.

Police spokeswoman Beverly Ford would not comment on Burke’s claims or confirm whether O’Toole had received training in the use of the pepper gun.

“Everything is under investigation, and until the investigation is complete, we really can’t talk about the incident,” Ford said.

Robert O’Toole, 59, is commander of the police department’s Special Operations unit, a tactical unit sent in to control crowds during major events.

Police were stationed in Kenmore Square, near Fenway Park, in riot gear last Wednesday, the night that the Red Sox beat the rival New York Yankees to clinch the American League pennant, sending the team to its first World Series since 1986. Police estimated the crowd swelled to about 80,000 people.

Some in the crowd became unruly, throwing bottles at police and setting fires. One police officer was struck in the face with a bottle, breaking his nose. Burke said two cars that were on Lansdowne Street were swarmed and rocked back and forth by revelers.

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Harry Tuttle
October 28, 2004, 11:56 AM
POLICE SUSPEND PELLET-GUN USE AFTER FATALITYSEATTLE SAYS IT WILL AWAIT THE RESULTS OF THE INVESTIGATION OF THE DEATH OF A STUDENT IN BOSTON LAST WEEK.

http://www.capecodonline.com/cctimes/policesuspend28.htm

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
BOSTON - At least one big-city police department has suspended use of pepper-spray pellet guns blamed for the death of a 21-year-old college student who was shot by police trying to break up a rowdy crowd of Red Sox fans last week.

The Seattle Police Department said it has shelved the equipment until it can determine what happened in Boston. Department spokesman Scott Moss said that the guns are normally restricted to a few trained officers and have yet to be used.

Other police departments around the country said they have found such crowd-control weapons to be effective and would keep using them.

"We've used it on six occasions and haven't had any problems with it," said Sgt. Carlos Rojas of the Santa Ana, Calif., Police Department.

Boston police, who acquired the weapons for last summer's Democratic National Convention, have put them aside at least temporarily and have gone back to using a previous model since the death of Victoria Snelgrove, who was shot in the eye.

The reassessment came as Boston police girded for another potential Sox-inspired frenzy, with the hometown team on the brink of a World Series victory against the St. Louis Cardinals. The Red Sox had their first chance to clinch Wednesday night.

Snelgrove was among an estimated 80,000 fans who swarmed the streets outside Fenway Park after the Red Sox beat the rival New York Yankees to advance to the World Series for their first since 1986.

Officers fired into a crowd of fans, striking Snelgrove and at least two others.

Within 24 hours of Snelgrove's death, Boston Police Commissioner Kathleen O'Toole suspended use of the pepper guns. Several days later, O'Toole tapped Massachusetts' former chief federal prosecutor, Donald K. Stern, to lead an investigation into the death.

Yesterday, the lawyer for the police commander in charge of crowd control the night of Snelgrove's death said the officer fired four rounds from a pepper-spray pellet gun, but did not hit Snelgrove.

Deputy Superintendent Robert O'Toole fired the weapon in an attempt to rein in out-of-control fans who were climbing on the rafters at Fenway Park and a sign at a nearby bar.

The Boston Globe quoted two anonymous sources, including an officer involved with police weapons training and an individual briefed on the investigation, as saying O'Toole fired at a group of students who were climbing the girders behind Fenway Park's left field wall.

O'Toole, who is not related to Kathleen O'Toole, then handed his weapon to patrolman Richard Stanton, who refused to fire it because he also had not been trained, the sources said.

O'Toole handed another gun to patrolman Samil Silta, who also told O'Toole he was not trained to use it but fired into the crowd anyway, the Globe reported. Another officer who fired into the crowd, patrolman Rochefort Milien, was trained to use the guns, the sources said.

Attorney Timothy Burke said the rounds fired by O'Toole did not strike anyone in the head. "No one was aimed at or shot at in the face," Burke told The Associated Press.

Burke also said that contrary to the Globe report, Burke had been trained to use the weapon.

Virginia-based FN Herstal, which manufactures the FN303 weapon used in Boston, said there have been no other instances of anyone seriously injured or killed since the gun went on the market about two years ago.

Bucky Mills, deputy director of law enforcement sale, marketing and training, said a couple of hundred law enforcement agencies have bought the guns, including New York City and Washington, D.C., and several federal agencies.

Charles "Sid" Heal, a commander with the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department and an expert on less-than-lethal force, said the only thing that stopped his department from buying the FN303 was its cost - about $900 per launcher. Heal said the FN303 launcher was known to be very accurate.

"They're one of the best that are out there," Heal said. "We tried it, we liked it, we just couldn't afford it."

On its Web site, FN Herstal says the weapon should never be aimed at a person's throat, neck or head.

The same weapons were used without incident in College Park, Md., in 2002 after the University of Maryland basketball team won the NCAA championship.

(Published: October 28, 2004)

cpileri
October 28, 2004, 12:04 PM
I could believe the 'aimed' part. But not the 'shot' part: evidence suggests that someone was indeed shot in the head.
Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr..........................
C-

mpthole
October 28, 2004, 12:24 PM
and a third struck the chest of a fan who had repeatedly ignored police orders to get down. “No one was aimed at or shot at in the face,” Burke told The Associated Press.
That third shot must have just been "lucky" then since none of the shots were aimed. Ok, maybe I'm splitting hairs... :confused:

Honestly, I don't know what the answer is. Its just very unfortunate that someone had to lose their life over this. :(

jefnvk
October 28, 2004, 12:36 PM
I think they meant that no one aimed at anyone's face, or shot at anyone's face.

But where did the shot come from? Another officer's gun after some freak bouncing?

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