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Cops fired wildly
Murdered by police in Boston

By Annie Levin | October 29, 2004 | Page 12

VICTORIA SNELGROVE was shot dead at point-blank range by a Boston cop. On October 20, following the seventh game of the American League Championship series, more than 600 Boston police were on duty as crowds left Fenway Park, celebrating the win by the Red Sox.

At one point, someone in the crowd allegedly threw a bottle that landed near a mounted officer. That's when another cop turned around and began shooting pellets of pepper spray at the crowd. Snelgrove, a 21-one-year-old Emerson College journalism student, was hit in the eye. She died the next day. A dozen other people were injured.

"I just want to know why the officer shot in that direction," Victoria's brother, Michael, said in an interview with a Boston radio station. The answer, according to witnesses, is that the cop who shot Victoria didn't seem to care where he fired.

"He turned around and immediately fired his gun, leveled at head level," one witness, Leif Anderson, told the Boston Globe. "He fired two rounds in extremely quick succession, and the girl immediately dropped. All her friends were around her. They were screaming."

According to the Globe, "The weapons come with manufacturer's warnings against aiming for the face to avoid a projectile penetrating an eye, as it did in Snelgrove's case. If the accounts of witnesses are correct, and police 'sprayed' the crowd without warning rather than targeting specific suspects, it is amazing others were not killed or seriously injured."

Yet cops across the country use these weapons on protesters and crowds--along with other supposedly "non-lethal" weapons that have killed in the past, like rubber bullets and bean bags filled with metal pellets.

Snelgrove's killing is the terrible but predictable result of Boston's new multi-agency "Police Command Center"--where cops keep watch over 50 new surveillance cameras set up around the city. Police helicopters flew over the city during the game, and riot police were mobilized in anticipation of "unruly" crowds. As the Globe reported, the Command Center was set up to use against protesters during the Democratic National Convention in July, but it has since become permanent--and now makes Boston a much more dangerous place for any public gathering.

It's unlikely that any cops will be held accountable for Victoria's death. In fact, city officials rushed to blame "violent thugs" for Victoria's death. "As we discuss all these things we're putting in place, where's the personal responsibility of these students?" Mayor Thomas Menino complained. "Don't they have any sense of their responsibility?" Police Commissioner Kathleen O'Toole joined right in. "We need members of the community, particularly kids, to step up the responsibility," she said. "I appeal to them, let's learn from this tragedy."

It's clear that what the police are "learning" is how to shift the blame, once again, for their brutal, criminal actions.

Apparently, when police fire into a crowd and kill somebody, it's just a regrettable "accident." And unfortunately, it won't be the last "accident" that results from increased surveillance and repression in Boston.

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