The Boston Police Department announced Saturday it will suspend the use of pepper-pellet guns for crowd control, until the conclusion of its investigation into the death of a local college student who was struck in the eye by a projectile from one during a rowdy celebration that followed Wednesday night's Red Sox victory.
Before the opening game of the World Series here Saturday night, department officials also said they were prepared for mass arrests and would beef up police presence on the streets by about 70 officers.
Victoria Snelgrove, 21, a journalism student at Emerson College, who was among tens of thousands of people celebrating around Fenway Park after Boston beat New York late Wednesday. Some engaged in violence and vandalism. On Thursday, Police Commissioner Kathleen M. O'Toole said in a written statement that the department accepts "full responsibility" for Snelgrove's death.
"I also condemn, in the harshest words possible, the actions of the punks last night who turned our city's victory into an opportunity for violence and mindless destruction," she said.
Snelgrove's death cast a pall over the jubilation felt by fans before the Red Sox first World Series appearance since 1986 and has sparked increasing scrutiny of "less-lethal" weapons used by police in many cities to maintain order.
The incident was the second time in less than a year that a fan celebrating a local team's victory was killed in this city. Last February, amid rioting after the New England Patriots Super Bowl victory, a man was struck dead by a car. Boston police were criticized for having just 150 officers assigned to crowd control.
Thursday night, with about 700 officers on the streets, images of fans tipping over cars, climbing lampposts and smashing windows were broadcast on local news stations.
"We tend to hear about these things happening in other cities and say, 'those knuckleheads, this could never happen here,' " said Matt McDonald, a Boston police officer who was not working the night that Snelgrove was killed. "It puts a lot of what we're so happy about in perspective."
The Boston Herald sparked an outcry Friday, by publishing graphic photographs of Snelgrove sprawled and bleeding on the sidewalk, one of which ran on the tabloid's front page. The newspaper apologized in a statement Friday afternoon.
"Our aim was to demonstrate this terrible tragedy as comprehensively as possible," said Kenneth A. Chandler, editorial director of Herald Media Inc. "In retrospect, the images of this unusually ugly incident were too graphic."
There were at least two other less severe injuries caused by the pepper pellets early Thursday. The plastic, ball-shaped projectiles are designed to break on impact, dispensing a chemical irritant. The device that fires them is not a firearm but works similarly to a paintball gun, using compressed air to propel its ammunition.
Law enforcement experts said that officers are generally trained not to fire the weapons at a person's head. Melvin L. Tucker, a retired police chief who works as a security consultant in Tennessee, said he is not aware of any other deaths from pepper-pellet weapons. "My guess is it was a violation of the training or an inaccurate shot," he said.
"The dreadful irony is that the use of less-lethal weapons is intended to reduce the risk of fatal injury," O'Toole said, adding that the officers directly involved in the fatality -- who have not been identified -- have been placed on leave to recover from the trauma of the event.
Some local students have expressed outrage over what they called excessive use of force. Snelgrove's father, Richard, told reporters outside her family home in East Bridgewater, south of Boston, that "what happened to her should not happen to any American citizen going to any type of game, no matter what."
Beginning Friday, the day before the start of their best-of-seven series with the St. Louis Cardinals, Red Sox players participated in a public service advertising campaign, asking fans to "keep the faith, and keep the peace."
Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino announced a host of regulations designed to minimize the potential danger of the large crowds expected to gather at the bars and restaurants near the stadium this weekend. Bar owners agreed to keep lines outside short, to restrict the capacity of their establishments and to more closely monitor customers' drinking.
They also agreed to prevent television crews from filming "live shots" inside the bars, which Menino spokesman Seth Gitell said can incite rambunctiousness.
Rioting and arrests after the Red Sox win were reported at several other New England colleges, including the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and Plymouth (N.H.) State University. Emerson, a small liberal arts college, suspended classes Friday.