BOSTON – The death of a college student from a pepper-spray-filled projectile sparked anger and questions Friday about whether police used too much force to break up rowdy Red Sox (search) revelers outside Fenway Park.
The mayor said more police will be at neighborhood bars during the upcoming World Series (search) to make sure fans do not get too drunk or rowdy, but he backed off his threat to ban alcohol in the area during the games.
Police Commissioner Kathleen O'Toole said police are considering propelled from devices similar to paintball guns, are meant to prevent serious injury as police agencies try to control large groups.
"We want to use the least force necessary in order to maintain the crowd," O'Toole said. "Very unfortunately, it resulted in a horrible action."
Mayor Thomas Menino (search) decided against invoking a rarely used state law to ban the sale of alcohol "in cases of riot or great public excitement" after meeting with about two dozen bar and restaurant owners Friday.
Instead, the city and bar owners agreed to limit the number of people lining up to get inside Fenway-area clubs and to prevent live television coverage inside the bars so that patrons do not get rambunctious as they play to the cameras.
Fifteen people, including a police officer, suffered minor injuries in the game's aftermath, and Boston police reported eight arrests, mostly for disorderly conduct.
Several people who were near the area where Snelgrove was shot said the crowd seemed under control when the pepper-spray balls were fired.
Doug Conroy, 33, of Portland, Maine, said he and several other people had climbed the rafters of Fenway's famed Green Monster when police began to order them back down. He said he saw an officer in riot gear shoot something into the crowd below him.
He said he heard a woman scream, then heard sobbing. "A lot of people then looked over and saw her lying awkwardly on the sidewalk and blood coming out of her nose. She wasn't moving and we were just hoping she was just unconscious," Conroy said.
He called the police action "an egregious overreaction."
"There was nothing violent going on. It was all celebration," he said.
Giovanni De Francisci, a 30-year-old Emerson student, said he was about 10 feet behind police officers as shots were fired in Snelgrove's direction.
He said nobody was climbing or causing damage in Snelgrove's immediate area around the time she was shot.
"It was not at all necessary to disperse that crowd. If you want to disperse a crowd, why not disperse the crowd that is overturning cars?" he asked.
Boston police bought the projectile weaponry for crowd control during this summer's Democratic National Convention, but did not use it then because protests remained relatively subdued.
Snelgrove's death was the second in Boston this year during rowdy celebrations of sports victories. Police were caught understaffed when riots broke out after the New England Patriots' Super Bowl win Feb. 1. One person was killed and another critically injured when a vehicle plowed into revelers.
Melvin L. Tucker, a security consultant who specializes in the use of force by police, said "less-than-lethal" weaponry has become an increasingly popular among police departments around the country over the past five years as a replacement for nightsticks, tear gas and other such tactics.
"This is generally a lot safer. It's a real tragedy," said Tucker, the former police chief of Tallahassee, Fla., and Asheville, N.C.