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A video clip of the Oct. 21 shooting released yesterday showed Officer Rochefort Milien (center) firing pepper-pellet rounds in quick succession.
A video clip of the Oct. 21 shooting released yesterday showed Officer Rochefort Milien (center) firing pepper-pellet rounds in quick succession. (Suffolk District Attorney Photo)

In Snelgrove files, officers recount night of chaos

DA releases images from deadly episode

(Correction: Because of a reporting error, a Page One story yesterday about newly released accounts of the fatal police shooting of Victoria Snelgrove misstated the injuries to two other revelers celebrating the Red Sox pennant. Boston University student Kapila Bhamidipati was shot in the forehead with a pepper pellet, and Cambridge resident Paul Gately was shot in the cheek.)

Boston police Officer Rochefort Milien said he had never seen such a large and raucous crowd as the one wreaking havoc outside Fenway Park after the Red Sox clinched the American League pennant. He and fellow officers resorted to firing pepper-pellet guns to try to control unruly fans.

Milien spotted a man ducking in and out of the crowd on Lansdowne Street, a man Milien said had thrown bottles at officers. ''I decided that, you know, I mean, I had a clear shot, so I mean, I took it," Milien said in an interview with homicide detectives two days after the shootings.

The man disappeared into the crowd and then Milien heard screams.

''I observed a female, a white female, you know, laying on the ground," he said in a transcript of the interview, given to Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley and reviewed by the Globe yesterday. It is the first time Milien's account of the shooting has been made public.

In the interview with police investigators, Milien repeatedly denied that he fired in the direction of Victoria Snelgrove. But, video evidence included with the transcript shows that Milien was the only officer in the vicinity with a pellet gun and that he fired two shots in quick succession in her direction, according to investigators.

Milien also said he had no idea that the FN303 pepper-pellet gun could kill someone. ''Not in a million years," he said.

But the pepper-spray pellet pierced Snelgrove's 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 an autopsy report. The 21-year-old Emerson College student was pronounced dead at 12:50 p.m. on Oct. 21, nearly 12 hours after she was shot.

The autopsy report and the interview transcript were two of hundreds of documents that prosecutors reviewed when deciding whether to bring criminal charges in connection with Snelgrove's death. In what Conley's office said yesterday was an unprecedented release of investigative files to the public, it granted the Globe's request to review the files, along with more than 200 still photographs and video clips.

Conley announced last week that none of the officers will face criminal charges. On Friday, Police Commissioner Kathleen M. O'Toole demoted the overall commander that night, James M. Claiborne, from superintendent to captain; suspended two officers who shot fans; and issued written reprimands to two other officers who did not secure evidence after the shootings. Milien accepted a 45-day suspension without pay for using poor judgment and excessive force.

The commander outside Fenway Park, former deputy superintendent Robert E. O'Toole, was criticized for poor decisions that led to Snelgrove's death. O'Toole, who is not related to the commissioner, retired in June, thus avoiding any departmental punishment.

The evidence reviewed by the Globe illuminates the chaotic events that led to the shooting of Snelgrove and two other fans and reveals the thoughts of the officers who fired the pellet guns that night.

As the game ended with a dramatic victory for the Red Sox in New York over the Yankees, euphoric fans started gathering around the city. In his interview with investigators, Robert O'Toole said he decided with officials at the citywide command center to allow fans to celebrate on certain streets around Fenway Park, including Lansdowne Street, parts of Brookline Avenue, and parts of Kenmore Square.

Soon, though, there were tens of thousands of fans, and he said he was getting reports on his cellphone that there were more headed his way. ''Never have I seen such a condensed group of people in one area . . . and still coming," Robert O'Toole told investigators. ''They came to Fenway like the pilgrims go to Mecca."

He and the other officers on the street described a palpable shift in the crowds. Fans began setting fires, throwing bottles, and jumping on cars. They threw hubcaps like Frisbees and began climbing the girders underneath the Green Monster and a billboard above the Cask 'n Flagon. When a reveler ripped up a street sign and began waving it like a lance, Robert O'Toole said, he ordered an officer manning a weapons-supply truck to deploy the FN303 pepper-pellet guns.

Robert O'Toole said reports about the intensifying chaos had been radioed to the citywide command center, where Claiborne was stationed and where O'Toole said officials could also view the scene through remote cameras.

On the street, O'Toole, Milien, and Officer Samil Silta headed toward the fans climbing the girders, according to Silta's and Milien's statements. They were armed with the pepper-pellet guns, though only Milien was certified to use one. Robert O'Toole and Silta told investigators they were familiar with the weapon, though the department concluded later that they should not have been permitted to use them since they had not been certified.

Robert O'Toole said he began yelling at the climbers to stop and come down and gestured with his hands. ''We try to get their attention . . . but I know in my heart they can't hear me," he said.

He began firing his pellet gun. Silta also fired. At some point, a pepper pellet tore through the cheek of Boston University student Kapila Bhamidipati, and another pierced the forehead of Cambridge resident Paul Gately. None of the officers told investigators he remembered hitting anyone in the face.

Silta described a man, believed to be Gately, bleeding from the face and clenching his blood-drenched hand into a fist, approaching him on the street underneath the girders.

''This guy was coming at me," said Silta, who said he squeezed off eight or nine pellets from an FN303. ''He was closing distance on me, and I had no choice."

After officers had cleared a spot in the middle of Lansdowne Street, Milien stepped toward Brookline Avenue, raised a pepper pellet gun to his shoulder, and pulled the trigger.

Donovan Slack can be reached at dslack@globe.com. Suzanne Smalley can be reached at ssmalley@globe.com.

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