Student's Death Raises Concerns about Weapons

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Student's Death Raises Concerns about Weapons

Brett Schweinberg, a 19-year-old Emerson student and Brookline resident, never imagined that a night intended for so much celebration in Boston could end so tragically.

Schweinberg was one of an estimated 80,000 revelers who flooded the streets of Kenmore Square and the Fenway Park neighborhood in the early hours of Oct. 21, following the Boston Red Sox’s ALCS victory over the New York Yankees.

“It was really a happy, fun, cheering crowd,” Schweinberg said. “It was a Mardi Gras parade with no route and no floats. It wasn’t a violent affair, and it certainly wasn’t a riot.”

However, the vibrant atmosphere quickly dissipated when members of the BPD, some mounted on horseback and some armed with less-lethal FN-303 launchers, took action to quell and disperse the crowd.

Schweinberg, who was watching the crowd from the beams of Fenway Park’s left field wall, sustained two injuries when he was hit with pellets from the compressed air rifle. Far worse for Schweinberg, however, was witnessing fellow Emerson student and journalism major, 21-year-old Victoria Snelgrove, suffer a fatal wound to the eye shortly thereafter.

“She dropped to the ground like a sack of potatoes. She started bleeding profusely out of the face,” Schweinberg said.

Several hours later, Snelgrove was pronounced dead at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Her tragic death has cast a wave of criticism on the BPD’s decision to use one of the newest less-lethal technologies – a weapon the BPD had never used in a field situation– on a mostly college-aged crowd.

The FN-303s were purchased by the BPD last summer for the specific purpose of controlling potential protests at the Democratic National Conven...

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...joined together to form The Campaign to Ban Less-Lethal Weapons and circulate a petition with the goal of imparting a ban within the city.

The petition states that: “First, these weapons must be re-classified as lethal. This is not only accurate, but it ensures that these weapons are used only in situations that would otherwise justify the use of lethal force.”

Other conditions stated in the petition include independent testing for all weapons and additional training for law enforcement officials according to weapon manufacturer specifications.

However, Terrill thinks there is little possibility that the FN-303 will be used by the BPD again.

“In a city stung by one incident, regardless of what the science or research shows afterwards, city officials are usually very reluctant to use that weapon or permit a public policy where it would be used again.”

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