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Boston police accept 'full responsibility' in death of Red Sox fan

Woman killed by projectile fired to disperse crowds

Boston Police Commissioner Kathleen O'Toole speaks of Snelgrove's death. Boston Mayor Tom Menino is in the background.
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Street celebrations after the Boston Red Sox's victory turn tragic.
Boston (Massachusetts)

(CNN) -- The Boston Police Department "accepts full responsibility" for the death of a 21-year-old college student killed by a police projectile fired to disperse crowds celebrating the Boston Red Sox victory over the New York Yankees.

Preliminary findings indicate that Victoria Snelgrove, a journalism student at Emerson College, was hit in the eye by a projectile that disperses pepper spray on impact, Boston Police Commissioner Kathleen O'Toole said Thursday.

Snelgrove died at 12:50 p.m. at Brigham and Women's Hospital, hours after the overnight melee.

"The Boston Police Department is devastated by this tragedy. This terrible event should never have happened," O'Toole told reporters. "The Boston Police Department accepts full responsibility for the death of Victoria Snelgrove."

Outside the family home in East Bridgewater, Rick Snelgrove clutched a photograph of his daughter and said, "Awful things happen to good people, and my daughter was an exceptional person."

"What happened to her should not happen to any American citizen," he told reporters, fighting back tears. "She loved the Red Sox. She went in to celebrate with friends, she was a bystander. She was out of the way, but she still got shot."

Police have said some 60,000 to 80,000 people took to the streets in the area around Fenway Park late Wednesday. Although most were simply celebrating the 10-3 victory that thrust the Red Sox into the World Series for the first time since 1986, some in the crowd vandalized property, set fires and tried to overturn cars. At least eight people were arrested.

However, video from the scene where Snelgrove was struck showed the crowd in a joyous mood, slapping high fives and chanting celebratory Red Sox slogans. There were no signs of near-riotous conditions in that immediate vicinity although the area was crowded, and dozens of people near her stopped celebrating when they realized the severity of her injury and they tried to get help.

Snelgrove was sprawled out on the ground, with blood running down her face.

"This day, which should have been one of celebration, is heartbreakingly tragic," O'Toole said. "I can't imagine the grief that her family is suffering and express my deepest sympathy to them."

She said the officers involved were "devastated" and have been placed on leave pursuant to department policy. Their names will not be not disclosed until they are interviewed by investigators, she said.

O'Toole said she "firmly and emphatically" accepted responsibility for any errors officers may have made. But she condemned the "punks" she said turned a celebration of the pennant victory into a near-riot.

"The dreadful irony is that the use of less-lethal weapons is designed to reduce the risk of fatal injury," O'Toole said.

Snelgrove was a junior majoring in journalism at Emerson College, a small, four-year communications and performing arts college in Boston, said school spokesman David Rosen. She had transferred to the school last spring and was to turn 22 next week.

Rosen said Snelgrove's family was at her side when she died.

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