More than two years after an Emerson College student was killed by a police-fired pepper spray pellet during Red Sox revelry, Boston's top cop is vowing to forever ban the weapons, angrily saying they should be dumped in Boston Harbor.
"Never. They'll never again be used in the city of Boston," police Commissioner Ed Davis said of the FN303 "less-lethal" pellet guns.
Bought by the department with federal Homeland Security funds before the 2004 Democratic National Convention, the heralded crowd control weapons turned out to be a disaster for the city when 21-year-old Victoria Snelgrove was accidentally struck in the eye and killed by a pellet fired by police trying to quell Red Sox rioters.
Her Oct. 21, 2004, death marked the first and only time the weapons were used on Boston's streets. Former Commissioner Kathleen O'Toole shelved the department's 13 FN303s after the tragedy and they were stored in the armory.
Davis said he met with the commission that investigated Snelgrove's shooting and decided they weren't fit for the department. He said the weapons were "much more powerful than what they were perceived to be" and called crowd control projectiles an "inherent problem."
Asked if he might try to sell the guns, Davis said, "I was thinking more like (dumping them in) Boston Harbor."
He said the department will use other means of crowd control such as horse patrols or pepper spray foggers.
As for the FN303s, a police spokeswoman said they are slated to be taken to a factory where they'll be melted down and made into sewer caps.
In a statement, Mayor Thomas M. Menino said: "I fully support Commissioner Davis' decision to get rid of the pellet guns. What he decides to do with them is completely up to him."
A spokesman for the Snelgrove family declined comment. A spokeswoman for the gunmaker, FN Herstal, did not return a call.
A suit filed by the family against FN Herstal ended in an undisclosed settlement. The city paid a $5.1 million settlement and was reportedly reimbursed $438,000 as a result of the family's settlement with the gun maker.
The deadly mishap also resulted in the suspension of four officers, the demotion of a police captain and the retirement of the superintendent in charge of the scene.
Davis' ban of the guns was hailed by some city councilors.
"We have seen firsthand that these non-lethal weapons don't come as advertised," Councilor Michael Flaherty said. "I think Commissioner Davis is making the right decision."
Councilor Stephen Murphy said, "It's an unfortunate chapter that is best closed."
He added, however, that he would like the department to try to recoup the cost of the guns. The cost of the weapons and ammunition has been pegged at $36,000.
"It's a horrible waste of money," Murphy said. "Rather than dump them in the harbor, I'd like to see if we can get something back for them."
Michele McPhee contributed to this report.
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Republished with permission of the Boston Herald.