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2 suspended for Fenway shootings

Demotion set for officer in Snelgrove case

Two Boston police officers who fired pepper pellets at fans outside Fenway Park last October, one killing 21-year-old Victoria Snelgrove and the other injuring another fan, will be suspended for 45 days without pay and transferred out of the special operations unit, Police Commissioner Kathleen M. O'Toole said yesterday.

Officer Rochefort Milien, who fired the pepper pellet that struck Snelgrove in the eye, and Officer Samil Silta, who fired multiple shots at close range at a second fan even after he had been injured, both used excessive force and displayed poor judgment, department investigators concluded. The officers, who accepted their suspensions, will also be required to attend a special training class on using force.

O'Toole also said she will demote Superintendent James M. Claiborne to captain, his civil service rank, because of deficiencies in his planning of overall operations as police sought to control crowds celebrating the Red Sox American League pennant. Claiborne, who had already been reassigned to the Boston Police Academy, will drop two rungs on the department's command staff in his new post running the Jamaica Plain police station. He had long been the department's highest-ranking black officer, and his lawyer indicated that Claiborne will fight the demotion.

The commissioner's decisions, based on an internal investigation as well as two outside inquiries, close the book on possible punishments against the officers involved in Snelgrove's death.

Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley announced on Monday that the officers would not face criminal charges, saying the officers' careless actions did not meet the legal standard of ''wanton recklessness" for manslaughter. The City of Boston is paying a $5 million wrongful death settlement to Snelgrove's family in which the family agreed not to pursue further legal claims against the city or any of the officers involved.

Two other officers accepted written reprimands for failing to secure evidence after Snelgrove was shot. One of two sergeants investigated for making comments that some officers interpreted as threats against cooperating with internal affairs investigators accepted a five-day suspension, O'Toole said.

Former deputy superintendent Robert E. O'Toole, the on-scene commander, will not face departmental punishment because he retired in June after 37 years on the force. He was criticized by Conley and an independent commission led by former US attorney Donald K. Stern for deploying the pepper-pellet weapons.

Commissioner O'Toole, who has personally apologized to Snelgrove's family and has said the department deeply regrets the Emerson College student's death, said yesterday she was not directly involved in what went wrong. She said that she was in and out of the department's command center as the crowd grew increasingly rowdy and did not sign off on Claiborne's operational plan because it was being developed until the last minute.

''I delegate authority," O'Toole said. ''It was his [Claiborne's] responsibility to put together the plan under our rules and regulations and to execute that plan effectively throughout the course of that night."

O'Toole became police commissioner in February 2004, a week after 21-year-old James Grabowski was killed as fans celebrated the New England Patriots' Super Bowl victory. Her predecessor, James Hussey, faced blistering criticism for not being at police headquarters that night. In an internal report issued after the Super Bowl, police officials acknowledged they did not have enough officers on the street and failed to anticipate the crowd's size and energy.

O'Toole did take responsibility, however, for picking top commanders who had been demoted by prior commissioners and who she said made serious mistakes in the Snelgrove shooting.

''I appointed Claiborne and Bob O'Toole and gave them both a second chance at the command staff. I live with those decisions now," the commissioner said.

O'Toole said she had no choice but to let Robert O'Toole, who is not related to the commissioner, retire without facing departmental discipline. ''I wasn't about to issue any discipline prior to completion of the investigation," she said. ''Bob O'Toole, if he had stayed, he'd be facing the most severe penalty right now. There's no question in my mind."

O'Toole's lawyer, Timothy Burke, could not be reached yesterday for comment.

Thomas Drechsler, Milien and Silta's lawyer, said his clients are confident they would be cleared of wrongdoing if they contested the allegations, but both men want to put the tragedy behind them.

''The agreement does not constitute an acknowledgment on their part of any wrongdoing, but they're very sensitive to the fact that this has been a tragedy all around," Drechsler said. ''The [appeals] process would have taken years. They opted to . . . avoid going through the hearings process which would have been difficult for everyone."

Claiborne's lawyer, Alan McDonald, issued a statement suggesting that Claiborne plans to fight his demotion, though he cannot appeal within the department.

''He will not accept punishment without the benefit of fairness and due process," McDonald's statement said. The statement said that Claiborne and other officers have not yet had a full opportunity to present their side of the story. ''Until that opportunity is provided, Superintendent Claiborne must respectfully disagree with the Police Commissioner's decision and action," it said.

Before Snelgrove's death, Claiborne served in one of the department's most prestigious posts, in charge of the Bureau of Field Services, where he supervised all patrol officers. In February, O'Toole transferred him to the Police Academy, saying at the time the reassignment had nothing to do with Snelgrove's death.

The commissioner faced intense criticism from the Massachusetts Association of Minority Law Enforcement Officers for ordering the move, which was widely seen as a demotion for Claiborne, who climbed to the department's top ranks after joining the force in 1979 and is popular with the rank-and-file officers.

O'Toole yesterday replaced Claiborne at the academy with Deputy Superintendent Charles Horsley, who had been in charge of the city's night command and who has been with the department for nearly 29 years. Horsley was promoted to superintendent.

O'Toole said Sergeant Detective Bruce Holloway, a 26-year department veteran who had been working in the homicide unit, will replace Horsley.

Both Holloway and Horsley are African-Americans, which O'Toole said did not influence their promotions, though she did say she did not want to be criticized by the minority officers group again.

''Both Charlie Horsley and Bruce Holloway have very strong credentials, and they've made lots of sacrifices for this department," O'Toole said.

Donovan Slack of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Suzanne Smalley can be reached at ssmalley@globe.com.

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