BOSTON – A 21-year-old college student died Thursday of a head injury after a clash between police and a crowd of Red Sox (search) fans who poured into the streets outside Fenway Park (search) to celebrate their team's victory over the New York Yankees (search).
Victoria Snelgrove, a journalism major at Emerson College in Boston, was shot in the eye by a projectile fired by an officer on crowd-control duty. The nature of the projectile was not immediately identified but the weapons are meant to be non-lethal.
During a news conference carried live on local television stations, Boston Police Commissioner Kathleen O'Toole expressed the department's sympathies to Snelgrove's family and said the agency "accepts full responsibility for the death of Victoria Snelgrove.
"The Boston Police Department is devastated by this tragedy. This terrible event should never have happened," O'Toole said.
Snelgrove, of East Bridgewater, was among 16 people hurt in Boston's Kenmore Square neighborhood early Thursday morning, after thousands of fans spilled out onto the streets to celebrate the Red Sox winning the American League pennant. She died at Brigham and Women's Hospital later in the day.
"It appears from evidence we have reviewed thus far that Tori was killed when she was hit in the eye by a projectile fired as officers tried to control mobs outside the ballpark," O'Toole said. "Designated officers were equiped with less-lethal systems that use projectiles designed to break upon impact, dousing the target with [pepper-like] spray."
O'Toole and Mayor Thomas Menino pledged to fully investigate the incident.
Snelgrove's father, Rick Snelgrove, expressed outrage and said his daughter did nothing wrong. Standing outside the family home, he held up a photograph of his smiling daughter.
"What happened to her should not happen to any American citizen going to any type of game, no matter what," he said. "She loved the Red Sox. She went in to celebrate with friends. She was a bystander. She was out of the way, but she still got shot. Awful things happen to good people. My daughter was an exceptional person."
A police officer was among the others injured in the melee, but none of the other injuries were severe.
City officials announced there would be a heavy police presence in Kenmore Square after they were caught understaffed when riots broke out when the New England Patriots won the Super Bowl on Feb. 1.
In the Super Bowl aftermath, a 21-year-old man visiting his brother at Northeastern University was killed and a Northeastern student was critically injured when a vehicle plowed into a crowd of revelers.
The new Boston Police Command Center has been in use as the Red Sox advanced through the playoffs. Inside, police watch views from 50 cameras around the city as they coordinate with several agencies, including State Police, the Boston Fire Department and even some college police forces. It was first used during the Democratic National Convention in July. The cameras were installed on top of the ballpark and other locations.
Early Thursday morning, several small fires were set, fireworks shot into the sky, a trash can was thrown at a fast-food restaurant sign and numerous fights broke out. Boston police reported eight arrests, mostly for disorderly conduct, though one arrest was for assault and battery on a police officer.
Menino said the city will prosecute others if possible.
"We will take responsibility for what happened," the mayor said. "We also will move on the hoodlums who were out in the streets of our city."
Emerson College spokesman David Rosen said the school is devastated.
"I'm sure the police and the city will conduct a full investigation, but at the end of the day, it doesn't matter how it happened," he said. "It's a great personal tragedy for this individual, her family and her many friends here at the college. We'll mourn her death no matter how it happened."
Snelgrove transferred to Emerson from Fitchburg State College a year ago and was a junior majoring in broadcast journalism, said her academic adviser, Janet Kolodzy.
A memorial service was being planned and grief counselors would be on hand to help students deal with Snelgrove's death, Rosen said.