2 shooters said to be untrained
Outside review of postgame tragedy vowed
Two officers who fired pepper-pellet guns near where a 21-year-old college student was fatally shot last week were not trained to use the weapons, including Deputy Superintendent Robert E. O'Toole, according to two sources, an officer involved with weapons training at the Boston Police Department and an individual briefed on the investigation.
As officers attempted to bring an unruly crowd of students on Lansdowne Street under control after the Red Sox won the American League pennant, O'Toole grabbed a pepper-pellet gun from a police supply vehicle and fired at a group of students who had climbed the girders of the Green Monster, according to accounts from the sources.
O'Toole then handed his gun to Patrolman Richard B. Stanton, who had told the commander he was not trained to use the gun and did not fire it, according to information from the sources.
O'Toole handed another gun to Patrolman Samil Silta, who also had told O'Toole he wasn't trained on the gun. But Silta took the weapon and fired into the surging crowds, the sources said. A fourth officer, Patrolman Rochefort Milien, was trained and also fired at the crowd, the sources said.
Almost four hours after the Globe asked Police Commissioner Kathleen M. O'Toole to comment on its findings yesterday, she announced that the shootings will be reviewed by an independent committee led by former US attorney Donald Stern and Janice W. Howe, his colleague at the law firm of Bingham McCutchen.
''By taking this step, I hope I have reinforced my promise to the Snelgrove family and the city of Boston that I am committed to an open and transparent process of accountability," the commissioner said in a statement released shortly before 8 p.m. She is not related to Robert O'Toole.
She also said that Robert O'Toole was moved to desk duty pending the outcome of the investigation.
Through a spokeswoman, the commissioner declined to be interviewed.
Emerson College student Victoria E. Snelgrove died hours after one of the pellets struck her in the eye early Thursday, as she was celebrating the Red Sox victory over the New York Yankees with revelers on Lansdowne Street.
The Globe reported yesterday that another pellet pierced the forehead of a 19-year-old Boston University student, Kapila Bhamidipati. A pellet also tore a hole in the cheek of 24-year-old Cambridge resident Paul Gately. Gately and Bhamidipati are recovering at home.
Robert O'Toole's lawyer, Timothy M. Burke, would not comment on his client's actions the night Snelgrove was killed or whether the deputy superintendent was trained in how to use the pepper-pellet gun, but Burke released a statement from O'Toole about Snelgrove's death.
''I am personally devastated that the actions of the Boston police played any role in causing this tragedy and bringing such pain to her family," the statement said. ''My hopes and prayers go out to her family."
Family members of Stanton and Silta said they would not comment. A home telephone number for Milien could not be found.
Thomas Drechsler, a lawyer who represents the Boston Police Patrolmen's Association, said he represents two of the officers who fired the pellet guns on Lansdowne Street on the night Snelgrove was killed, but would not identify them.
''The officers used the weapon within the scope of what was purported to be the safe intended purpose of the weapon," Drechsler said. ''That was their intent. Certainly no one in any way, shape, or form ever anticipated this tragedy would occur."
The following account of how events unfolded on Lansdowne Street was drawn from information provided by the sources.
As crowds celebrating the Red Sox victory over the Yankees spiraled out of control early Thursday, Robert O'Toole went to a supply vehicle on Brookline Avenue and pulled out two of the department's new FN303 pepper-pellet guns. O'Toole asked nearby officers if they were trained to use the weapons, and Silta and Stanton said they were not.
O'Toole handed one to Silta, who began firing, and O'Toole, untrained himself, began firing the other one from the hip, at people climbing the Green Monster. A few minutes later, O'Toole handed his weapon to Stanton, who did not fire the gun. The other officer, Milien, already had a weapon and fired it. It was not clear which officers fired the pellets that hit Snelgrove and injured Gately and Bhamidipati.
The manufacturer of the guns, FN Herstal, trained 29 Boston police officers to use the weapons, said Bucky Mills, deputy director of law enforcement sales, marketing, and training for the company. Mills said Boston police have not confirmed to the company that its weapons were used in the shootings that night.
''During this training, officers are told never to intentionally target the neck or head, because death or serious injury can occur," Mills said. ''The warnings are repeated several times throughout the training manual we provide while we teach the class and reinforced throughout the class and during the live fire qualifications."
Mills said that FN303 weapons have been successfully used without serious injury or death on several occasions, including at sports events such as the 2003 Super Bowl and at the University of Maryland at College Park, after the school won the NCAA basketball championship and riots ensued on campus.
When asked if the manufacturer would ever recommend shooting the FN-303 into a dense crowd, Mills said it would depend on the circumstances, but if ''somebody in a dense crowd is shooting a ball-bearing at you or throwing a Molotov cocktail at you, it [the FN-303] can shoot accurately in a crowd."
The FN303 projectile is ''fin-stabilized," Mills said, which gives it more accuracy than a paintball gun.
Andrea Estes and Suzanne Smalley of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Donovan Slack can be reached at email@example.com.