BOSTON – An independent investigation into the police shooting of a college student found mistakes were made at every turn — starting with the department's decision to buy pepper-pellet guns for crowd control, and ending with the officer's decision to fire into an unruly crowd during chaotic Red Sox celebrations last fall.
"We find that inadequate planning and training, combined with a breakdown of command discipline, set up a situation ripe to produce an unintended result," read the findings released Wednesday by a commission headed by former U.S. Attorney Donald K. Stern.
Patrolman Rochefort Milien, who was certified to use the weapon, fired the pellet that killed Snelgrove outside Fenway Park on Oct. 21, after Boston eliminated the New York Yankees from the American League playoffs.
"Officer Milien failed to take sufficiently into account that he was shooting at a moving target in the midst of a crowd and that a missed shot could easily strike a bystander," the report said.
But the bad decisions that led to Snelgrove's death began months earlier, the Stern commission said, starting with the buying of the air-powered pellet guns in early 2004. Police officials did little research before making the purchase, then failed to properly train officers in how to use them, and under what conditions.
"(Milien) had little guidance as to how such weapons were to be used that night, and had earlier observed the most senior commander on the scene, Deputy Superintendent Robert O'Toole, repeatedly firing ... indiscriminately," the report said.
O'Toole, the police supervisor on the street that night, was not trained in using the pepper-pellet guns, yet he also fired his into the crowd.
Snelgrove was a broadcast journalism major from East Bridgewater. The city paid a $5.1 million settlement to her family earlier this month and simultaneously announced O'Toole's retirement.