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Pepper Spray Under Scrutiny Following Red Sox Fan's Death

Pepper Spray Under Scrutiny Following Red Sox Fan's Death

Posted - Oct. 24, 2004 at 4:49 p.m.



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Kimberly Houck reportingWhat started out as a party in Boston after the Red Sox got into the World Series quickly turned to tragedy.

Wednesday night, a 21-year-old woman died after she was hit by a projectile filled with pepper spray.

Her death is raising concerns about whether the method police used to squelch the riot was excessive.

Kimberly Houk took that question to the Salt Lake County Sheriff's Department.

"They can cause injury, but they're not supposed to cause death."

The Salt Lake County Sheriff's Department turned to pepper balls to help control a riot during the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

Since then, they have used the non lethal form of weaponry on a daily basis. It's an option that prevents them from having to use their handguns.

Nick Roberts/ Rangemaster, Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office: "They're weapons that are designed to not cause death or serious bodily injury, but can."

And one did kill a 21 year old Boston girl last week when it struck her in the eye and caused her brain to bleed.

But there's conflicting reports about whether police were using pepper balls or pepper bullets.

Boston Police aren't saying but there's a big difference between the two.

Roberts says pepper balls are considered non-lethal, and that's why Salt Lake County chose them.

But pepper bullets, which are also referred to as FN 303, are heavier, carrying both pepper and soft steel, making it possible for them to penetrate on contact.

They're considered less lethal.

Roberts: "All these items are designed to help preserve life, and less lethal is a force that is not intended to or designed to cause death."

Roberts says all officers have to go through extensive training to use the weapons. Part of that training is learning where it's safe to shoot the human body.

Roberts: "They're going to be aiming waist and leg area to get people to move."

But in Boston, witnesses say the victim was shot at head level. Police say they were shooting higher to get people who were climbing the green monster at Fenway Park.

Roberts: "I can tell you now, those officers back in Boston are going through hell right now."

Roberts says his department is keeping a close eye on this case. It may determine whether pepper balls will continue to be used in Utah.

Roberts says the number of officer involved shootings has gone down since police started using the non- and less lethal weaponry.

Boston police announced this weekend they are switching the pepper-spray gun to a weapon that fires pellets at a lower velocity.

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