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Officer Talks About Snelgrove Shooting
No Criminal Charges Brought By Prosecutors

POSTED: 6:36 am EDT September 21, 2005
UPDATED: 7:49 am EDT September 21, 2005

BOSTON — The Boston police officer who fired the pepper pellet shot that killed a college student during Red Sox victory celebrations last fall was trying to hit a man who had been throwing objects at police, according to transcripts of an interview he gave two days after the event.

The man was ducking in and out of the crowd on Lansdowne Street.

“I decided that, you know, I mean, I had a clear shot, so I took it,” Officer Rochefort Milien said in an interview with department homicide detectives.

It is the first time his account of events have been made public.

The transcript was among hundreds of documents, photographs and video clips given to Suffolk District Attorney Daniel Conley and reviewed by The Boston Globe.

The man disappeared into the crowd and Milien heard screams.

“I observed a female, a white female, you know, laying on the ground,” he said.

Victoria Snelgrove, 21, a journalism student at Emerson College, was struck in the eye and died about 12 hours later.

Milien said in the interview that he did not fire in Snelgrove’s direction, but video evidence included with the transcript shows that he was the only officer in the vicinity with a pellet gun and that he fired two quick shots in succession in her direction.

The autopsy report on Snelgrove was among the documents. The pepper pellet pierced her left eye, opened a three-quarter inch hole in the bone behind it, broke into nine pieces and damaged the right side of her brain, according to the autopsy.

After reviewing the documents, photos, and videos, prosecutors decided last week they would not bring criminal charges against Milien or any of the other officers involved in the Oct. 20 incident, the night the Boston Red Sox won the American League pennant by beating the New York Yankees in Yankee Stadium.

The officers were all either suspended, demoted or reprimanded, including Milien, who was suspended for 90 days. All will keep their jobs.

The former deputy superintendent in charge of operations around Fenway Park that night, Robert E. O’Toole, told investigators that he decided to let revelers gather on certain streets around the ballpark.

But the crowd grew so large so fast that it soon got out of hand. Some people began setting fires, throwing bottles and jumping on cars. Fans were throwing car hubcaps like Frisbees, and climbing the girders around Fenway Park.

“Never have I seen such a condensed group of people in one area … and still coming,” O’Toole said, according to the transcripts.

When one person tore up a street sign and brandished it like a lance, O’Toole said, he ordered an officer manning a weapons supply truck to deploy the supposedly nonlethal FN303 pepper-pellet weapons.

O’Toole, Milien and Officer Samil Silta, armed with the weapons, tried to get revelers to climb down from the girders. When they did not respond to verbal requests, O’Toole and Silta fired. Neither had been certified to use the weapon. Two other fans were hit and injured.

Silta said a man bleeding from the face approached him.

“This guy was coming at me. He was closing distance on me and I had no choice.” Silta then fired eight or nine pepper pellets.

An independent commission concluded that police made a series of mistakes leading up to the death of Snelgrove. That commission blamed O’Toole for creating “confusion in the field” by handing out the pellet guns to uncertified officers and ordering them to use the weapons.

O’Toole retired earlier this year and was not subject to department discipline.

The city paid the Snelgrove family a $5.1 million settlement in May.
 
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