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Pepper guns an option on Halloween
By Andrew Hickey and Sean Corcoran
Staff writers


Salem police are equipped with a similar type of "less lethal" weapon blamed in the death of a 21-year-old woman celebrating the Red Sox victory in Boston's Kenmore Square.

And come Halloween, those weapons — air-powered rifles that resemble paintball guns and fire round, dime-sized pellets loaded with a form of pepper spray — will be ready in case the celebrations swirl out of control.

"They will be out there on Halloween," said Lt. Conrad Prosniewski yesterday. "If we have to use them, we're still going to use them as we're trained to until we're told otherwise."

Boston police Commissioner Kathleen O'Toole said Victoria Snelgrove of East Bridgewater died early Thursday morning after riot police fired a pepper spray-charged ball in an attempt to control revelers celebrating the Sox advancing to the World Series with a victory over the New York Yankees.

Boston police have not said exactly how Snelgrove died, but investigators determined she was injured when one of the projectiles hit her in the eye and knocked her to the ground. O'Toole launched an investigation to determine if the weapon was used properly.

Salem police Capt. John Jodoin said he was unsure if Boston police use the same rifles and pellets Salem began using last year. But he noted that Snelgrove's death has called into question the use of less lethal weapons.

"We're waiting to hear whether or not we have to adjust our system," he said.

Salem police policy states that such weapons are not to be fired at a suspect's eyes, face, throat or spine. The preferred target is the center of the torso, Jodoin said.

Trained officers are ordered to use the weapons only in extreme situations where lethal force would be excessive, such as violent and destructive riots, assaults on officers or other individuals, and when they encounter combative suspects.

If the weapons are fired, Jodoin said, the officer must file a "use of force report."

Citing security concerns, Jodoin wouldn't say how many weapons the department has or how many of Salem's 79 officers are trained to use them.

"They're not intended to be a substitute for other weapons. You have to justify the situation," he said. "When used properly, it produces minimal injuries. But anything used inappropriately could possibly kill you."

Jodoin said the pellets burst on contact and send powder or liquid similar to tear gas into the air, causing extreme discomfort for five to 10 minutes. They are accurate if fired from 30 feet or less and are designed to leave only a welt on the person's body.

Officers are required to "detoxify" a suspect struck with a pellet by washing the substance off them after they're apprehended.

Neither Prosniewski nor Jodoin could remember a time when Salem officers fired off a pellet.

"We've had them out in situations," Prosniewski said, but they haven't been discharged.

Salem police are the only area department carrying this type of weapon.

"Peabody does not have any," Peabody police Chief Robert Champagne said. "We use pepper spray, and the officers carry it on their person. It is sort of like what people would consider the old mace in a little hand container."

Champagne said his department has looked into several types of less lethal weapons, but so far has not bought them, mostly because of the expense.

Champagne said Peabody has little need for the guns. He said he does not recall any riots in the city since he joined the force.

Prosniewski said Snelgrove's death should serve as a wake-up call for revelers.

"People have to realize that there is responsible celebration and completely irresponsible celebration that can throw things into a riotous state," he said.

In the wake of Snelgrove's death, Prosniewski said Salem officers could be apprehensive if the use of less lethal force becomes necessary.

"I think everyone's waiting to find out exactly what happened in Boston," he said. "Officers now know what they're working with and what these weapons are capable of. It's opened our eyes."


The Associated Press contributed to this story.
 

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I think it sucks that O'Toole already has "taken full responsibility" before the offical cause of death is released. I still am having trouble believing that it was the pepperball itself that caused death. The situation is awful, but there's no need to immidiately jump on your officers before the whole thing is sorted out. Just my $.02
 

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I agree Delta. I do not feel there anyone to be blamed but the fans who lost control and created a dangerous situation that caused a tragety. The officers were acting in good faith to control a situation that flat out scared the shit out of them. I cannot beleive there was any malicious intent. Even if the pepperball was the cause of death given that the cops were controlling a riot what less dangerous alternatives do they have considering they were having bottles thrown at them and their lives were endangered. The only less lethal alternatives that come to mind are tasers but as we all know MA outlawed them even for law enforcement
 

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2-Delta @ 23 Oct 2004 20:15 said:
I think it sucks that O'Toole already has "taken full responsibility" before the offical cause of death is released. I still am having trouble believing that it was the pepperball itself that caused death. The situation is awful, but there's no need to immidiately jump on your officers before the whole thing is sorted out. Just my $.02
The fact that Kathy took responsibility does not mean she's blaming an individual officer, or looking to initiate a witch hunt. Perhaps it means The BPD as a department, accepts they were a factor in a tragic accident, and will takes steps (critique/training/policy) to reduce potential of like incident in future. Remember that they are looking at going after the F*uck(s) who basically incited the thing, as they should.
 

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I think that when you say "full responsibility" it means that no one else is to blame. You've taken FULL responsibility.

I think it was a dumb thing for her to say...it was a knee jerk reaction that's going to end up hurting the department. It would have been much smarter if she said "we are investigating it and will comment later", said nothing at all. Or just reported the "facts" as they were known at the time.

"The police used approved riot control equipment to disperse a crowd before it got out of control. A person in the crowd was hit by one of the devices and subsequently died of injuries related to the incident. There is an ongoing investigation and police are seeking out those who initiated the riot and plan to charge them as partially responsible in the death of the young woman."

Now that the department has instantly taken "full responsibility" for that girls death, it really doesn't matter what anyone else did, it's fully the departments responsibility., committed to every media outlet that carried the story.

The girls father was on the TV saying that no American citizen should be subjected to something like that...do you think he meant the near riot that the cops put down or do you think he meant the use of a police force against it's own citizens? I would be the latter.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
I hate when people go to these debacles of public decency thinking there is somekind of safe sideline they can stand at to watch the doings a happening. :roll:

Posted Tue 26 Oct, 2004 14:13:

Salem police weigh use of pepper-spray guns for Halloween weekend crowd control
By Andrew Hickey
Staff writer

SALEM - Police officials will meet today to determine whether officers will carry pepper-spray guns to control as many 50,000 revelers during the city's Halloween festivities this weekend.

Salem police started deploying the weapons last year during Halloween but say they have never fired them. The guns' safety have been called into question after a pellet from a similar weapon fired by Boston police killed an Emerson College student last week in Kenmore Square during a celebration of the Red Sox' win over the Yankees.

The air-powered rifles fire pellets containing a substance similar to pepper spray. One pellet killed 21-year-old Victoria Snelgrove of East Bridgewater after it hit her in the eye.

Salem Capt. John Jodoin said department officials will meet this morning to weigh the pros and cons of carrying the "less-than-lethal" weapons for crowd control and decide if they will still be carried on Halloween.

Jodoin said the department could choose to abandon use of such guns altogether or hold them in reserve in case things get out of hand.

Boston police Commissioner Kathleen O'Toole announced over the weekend that her department has switched to a less powerful weapon than the one blamed in Snelgrove's death.

Boston police will now use Jaycor SA200 rifles, the same ones Salem police have. Before Snelgrove was killed, Boston police used an FN303 gun, made by FN Herstal.

Jodoin said Salem police chose the Jaycor SA200 and its accompanying "pepperballs" last summer because the weapons best fit the needs of the department. No other type or brand of weapon was considered, he said.

"They were a perfect match for what we were looking for," he said.

Jodoin said that Salem police and Jaycor policies state the pellets are not to be fired at a suspect's face, eyes, throat or spine, and that the center torso is the preferred target.

The balls burst on impact and send powder or liquid similar to tear gas into the air, causing the target extreme discomfort for five to 10 minutes. The weapons are accurate if fired from 30 feet or less and are designed to cause minimal injury, such as welts.
 
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