$5.1 million settlement reached for wrongful death in ’04 Red Sox riots

BOSTON — The city paid a $5.1 million settlement on Monday to the parents of a college student killed by police trying to subdue rioters after the Boston Red Sox won the American League pennant last fall.

Victoria Snelgrove, a 21-year-old Emerson College senior from East Bridgewater, died hours after she was hit in the eye socket with a pepper-spray pellet fired by a police officer outside Fenway Park on Oct. 21 after Boston eliminated the New York Yankees.

“Of course, no amount of money can compensate the Snelgroves for the untimely loss of their daughter,” said Police Commissioner Kathleen O’Toole. “Our prayers continue to be with them.

“I am hopeful the settlement recognizes the tremendous loss to them and represents our acceptance in the role the police played in that tragedy,” she said.

O’Toole said that the department’s investigation showed Victoria Snelgrove was an innocent bystander.

“Tory was not the target of any police action nor was she engaged in any activity that would have led police to think that she was behaving unlawfully,” the commissioner said.

Patrick Jones, the Snelgrove’s family lawyer, said that acknowledgment was the most important aspect of the settlement to her family. He said Snelgrove’s parents, Richard and Diane Snelgrove, and her brother Michael, would not have any comment beyond a statement they recorded on a DVD released at the news conference.

Deputy Superintendent Robert E. O’Toole, who was in charge of operations around Fenway Park that night and fired one of the weapons, also will retire from the force, the commissioner said. The two are not related.

“Bob has been at the center of controversy and media speculation since this tragedy occurred,” she said. “While Bob is the first to admit that he’s made mistakes during his career, he has served the city for 37 years and his contributions to the Boston Police Department cannot be overstated.”

Two other people were injured when they were hit in the face by the pellets, which are fired from compressed-air weapons. O’Toole said it was too soon to discuss their cases.

The incident is the subject of at least three separate investigations.

Prosecutors are looking into whether criminal charges are warranted against the officers who fired the pepper pellet weapons.

The commissioner named a special outside panel to look into the shooting and police policies. Former U.S. Attorney Donald Stern, who is leading that investigation, said the panel could release its report as soon as this week.

And the results of an internal Boston Police Department investigation were forwarded to the Suffolk District Attorney’s Office about a week ago, according to a spokesman for District Attorney Daniel Conley.

“We’re reviewing the report to decide whether the officers’ use of force was within the law,” spokesman David Procopio said.

O’Toole said investigators also are trying to determine if the weapon malfunctioned, and the settlement provides that the Snelgrove family will cooperate with the city in any legal action taken against the manufacturer and share in the proceeds of any damages recovered.