Fatal Shooting Adds Somber Note to Boston's Series

Times Staff Writer

The fatal shooting by Boston police of a 21-year-old college student has added a somber note to preparations for Saturday's opening game of the World Series at Fenway Park.

Victoria Snelgrove, a junior at Emerson College who dreamed of becoming a television journalist, was struck in the eye about 1:30 a.m. Thursday when police fired supposedly nonlethal projectiles at crowds gathered to celebrate the Red Sox's Game 7 victory over the New York Yankees.

The incident prompted Police Commissioner Kathleen O'Toole to issue an apology to Snelgrove's family — but also to condemn "in the harshest words possible the actions of the punks who turned our city's victory into an opportunity for violence and mindless destruction."

After meeting today with restaurant and tavern owners in the Fenway Park area, Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino backed off a threat to ban liquor sales near the ballpark while the World Series is in progress.

But earlier, Menino lashed out at students who flooded the streets, labeling them "hoodlums" and demanding: "Where is their responsibility?"

Snelgrove was among an estimated 80,000 ebullient baseball fans who poured into the streets outside the stadium minutes after the team earned its first World Series appearance since 1986. Most of them were young, streaming into the densely populated area from more than a dozen colleges and universities around Boston.

Police in riot gear fired high-pressure pepper spray guns after small segments of the crowd turned disruptive, setting several fires and exploding firecrackers. A trashcan was shoved through a restaurant window and a car was overturned, police said. Witnesses said bottles also were tossed at police on horseback.

In a statement released after Snelgrove's death late Thursday at a Boston hospital, O'Toole said: "This day, which should have been one of celebration for the city of Boston, is heartbreakingly tragic because a young woman was fatally injured.

"The Boston Police Department accepts full responsibility for the death of Victoria Snelgrove, an Emerson student who would have turned 22 next week," O'Toole's statement said.

While Lansdowne Street — where the incident occurred in the shadow of Fenway Park's fabled Green Monster — remained roped off with yellow crime scene tape today, O'Toole said an investigation was underway. The Suffolk County district attorney has launched a separate inquiry.

The shooting was the second time this year in Boston that festivities surrounding a sporting event have turned deadly: After the New England Patriots' Super Bowl win in February, a 21-year-old man was run down by a car not far from where Snelgrove was killed.

Menino decided not to invoke an ordinance that permits emergency liquor license restrictions after restaurant and tavern owners near Fenway agreed to limit the number of patrons they would admit while the games are in progress. The bar owners also said they would ban live television shots from within their establishments, which Menino and others say attract attention-seekers and can provoke unruly behavior.

Menino said today that "I am heartened by the desire of the bar and tavern owners to join with me and show that Boston can celebrate responsibly."

Also today, Red Sox Manager Terry Francona said the team was preparing to release three public service television ads urging fans to show restraint in celebrating. The ads feature pitcher Curt Schilling, centerfielder Johnny Damon and designated hitter David Ortiz.

"I think we have the greatest fans in the world," Francona said. "I hope we can give them a lot of reason to celebrate in the coming week. But I hope they use some common sense and good judgment."

Elsewhere early Thursday, 29 people were arrested at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst after revelers threw beer cans and flaming toilet paper at police. And at the university's Dartmouth campus, about 2,000 people had to be dispersed by police using stun grenades. In New Hampshire, police made about 15 disorderly conduct arrests as crowds swarmed the campus of Plymouth State University and surrounding neighborhoods.

The weapon that killed Snelgrove is known as a "less-than-lethal" system, and uses a compressed-air system "similar to a paintball device," according to O'Toole's statement. She said two other people sustained less serious injuries when they were shot with the weapon early Thursday.

"The dreadful irony is that the use of the less-lethal weapons is intended to reduce the risk of fatal injury," the commissioner said.

She said the officers involved in the shootings have been placed on leave pending an investigation.

But O'Toole's remorse fell on deaf ears at the home of Snelgrove's family in East Bridgewater, about 25 miles southeast of Boston.

"I want you all to meet my daughter Victoria," Snelgrove's father, Richard, said as he held up a large photograph of his smiling, brown-haired child outside the family home. "What happened to her should not happen to any American citizen going to any type of game, no matter what."

Emerson College, a small, liberal arts institution, suspended all classes today in Snelgrove's memory.

The roped-off shooting scene was a grim sight for fans who gravitated to Fenway today. Tours of the stadium drew long lines, and souvenir stores were packed with loyal Red Sox followers buying anything they could find with the new American League champions logo.

Kevin S. Logan, 40, who works in marketing for a Boston book publisher, said he stood on his back porch and lighted a sparkler after the team's fourth consecutive victory over the Yankees allowed them to advance to the series.

But as he walked by the yellow police tape, he said: "This puts it all in perspective. Baseball is just a game."

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