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Newspaper: Untrained officers fired pellets

10/27/2004 - Boston Red Sox

BOSTON -- An independent panel led by a former U.S. attorney
will investigate the death of a woman who was shot by police using
pellet guns to subdue a crowd of rowdy baseball fans.

Police Commissioner Kathleen M. O'Toole announced the
investigation Tuesday. Victoria Snelgrove, an Emerson College
junior, was killed last week when she was hit in the eye by a
pepper gas pellet during a raucous street celebration that began
after the Red Sox won the American League pennant.

The plastic balls, fired from guns similar to paintball guns,
are meant to help police control large groups without causing
injury.

The Boston Globe reported Wednesday that two of the officers who
fired pepper balls into the crowd had not been trained to use the
weapons.

The manufacturer of the guns, FN Herstal, did train 29 Boston
officers to use the weapons, said Bucky Mills, the company's deputy
director of law enforcement sales, marketing, and training. Mills
said officers are repeatedly told never to target a person's neck
or head.

The Globe quoted two anonymous sources, including an officer
involved with police weapons training and an individual briefed on
the investigation, as saying Deputy Superintendent Robert O'Toole,
who is not related to the commissioner, fired at a group of
students who were climbing the girders behind Fenway Park's left
field wall.

Robert O'Toole, who was not trained to use the guns, 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.

Robert O'Toole has not responded to repeated calls by The
Associated Press seeking comment. His lawyer, Timothy M. Burke,
gave the Globe a statement saying O'Toole was "personally
devastated that the actions of the Boston police played any role in
causing this tragedy and bringing such pain to her family."

No telephone number is listed for Silta, and the department and
the police officers union would not supply a number.

The commissioner said the independent commission will be headed
by former U.S. Attorney Donald K. Stern, who prosecuted mob figures
and pursued a tax-evasion case against former state House Speaker
Charles Flaherty.

Kathleen O'Toole was appointed commissioner in February, just
days after riots following the New England Patriots' Super Bowl
victory in which one man was killed. She ordered an investigation
that found police leaders did not put enough officers on the street
that night. She reassigned some police brass and apologized to the
city.