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Police defend current weapons

The State News | November 2 2004

The recent death of a Boston Red Sox fan from a pepper spray pellet shot was extremely rare, area law enforcement officers said, adding they plan to continue use of similar weapons.

The 21-year-old Emerson College student, Victoria Snelgrove, was hit in her eye during a street celebration after the Oct. 20 game against the New York Yankees, and died shortly after.

The Ingham County Sheriff's Department uses similar pepper ball guns, as well as Taser guns and pepper gas.

"There's nothing out there that's 100 percent nonlethal," said detective Sgt. Roy Holliday of the Ingham County Sheriff's Department. "They're designed to incapacitate somebody long enough to handcuff them."

After Snelgrove's death, the Boston Police Department switched to a less powerful pepper gun.

East Lansing police Sgt. Mark VandeWouwer said he wasn't concerned with the safety of less lethal weapons.

"It sounded like more of a freak accident than anything," VandeWouwer said of the Boston death.

The East Lansing Police Department uses pepper spray, collapsible batons and bean bag guns, and are looking into Taser guns.

Michigan State Police officers still use the FN303, the same model pepper spray gun Boston police officers used until the student's death.

"It's another tool we can use to control a situation and deal with individuals," MSU police Lt. Doug Monette said.

All patrol officers with the MSU police carry Tasers, and supervisors keep one of the other weapons in their squad cars, Monette said. The department also has rubber pellet guns.

"It's a direction we're moving in because everybody wants to not use fatal force if at all possible," VandeWouwer said.

Related:

'Nonlethal' guns causing alarm

Red Sox Fan Death Underlines Distorted Mentality of Both Police and Public

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