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Boston Investigation: Police Errors Led to Student's Death at Celebration

BOSTON - The death of a woman who was shot in the eye with a less lethal projectile during a Red Sox celebration was blamed by an independent panel Wednesday on a series of police mistakes, starting with the department's decision to buy the guns for crowd control.

Victoria Snelgrove, 21, an Emerson College student, was shot Oct. 21 outside Fenway Park after Boston defeated the New York Yankees for the American League pennant. The city paid her family a $5.1 million settlement earlier this month.

"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 report 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.

"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.

Milien's lawyer has said the officer was aiming at someone near Snelgrove who was throwing bottles.

The commission also faulted the Police Department's decision to buy the air-powered pellet guns in early 2004. Police officials did little research before making the purchase, then failed to properly train officers in their use, the panel said.

The report said the officers "did not appear to appreciate that a person could be seriously injured or killed."

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