EAST BRIDGEWATER, Mass. (AP) – Hundreds of mourners paid their final respects Tuesday to a college student killed by a pepper-spray pellet fired by police during raucous celebrations after the Boston Red Sox won the American League pennant.

Friends, family and dignitaries – including Gov. Mitt Romney, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and Boston Police Commissioner Kathleen O’Toole – filed into St. John’s Catholic church for the funeral Mass of Victoria E. Snelgrove.

In a eulogy marked by soft sobbing from among the roughly 500 mourners, the Rev. Wally Keymont criticized the rowdy fans whose behavior led to her death.

“Why did this have to happen?” he said. “I don’t know why. Some people feel it’s their God-given right to riot, to destroy property and cause mayhem. … It is destructive and it is deadly.

“We need to be able to articulate our anger about this horrible death,” the pastor said, “(but) we need not lose our faith because of it.”

Across the street from the church, a message board placed in front of East Bridgewater High School read, “Torie we will miss you EBHS.”

Snelgrove graduated from the school in the Boston suburb in 2001 before she enrolled at Boston’s Emerson College, where she was a 21-year-old junior studying broadcast journalism. She would have turned 22 on Friday.

The family’s lawyer said Monday that the family will await the results of an internal police review before deciding whether to sue the Boston Police Department.

Snelgrove was killed last week when she was hit in the eye by a pellet fired by police as they tried to control crowds that gathered outside Fenway Park after the Red Sox won the pennant against the archrival New York Yankees.

Snelgrove was among an estimated 80,000 revelers celebrating in the streets around the ballpark early Thursday morning.

Police began firing the pellets out of compressed-air guns when some in the crowd became unruly, climbing the steel girders under Fenway’s left-field wall, setting small fires and throwing bottles at police.

In what police say was a horrible fluke, Snelgrove was hit in the eye socket by one of the pellets. She was pronounced dead hours later at Brigham & Women’s Hospital.

Her death prompted questions about whether police overreacted to the mostly college crowd. The department was sharply criticized earlier this year for being under-prepared when riots broke out following the New England Patriots’ Super Bowl win. One person was killed and another critically injured when a vehicle plowed into revelers shortly after midnight on Feb. 2.

Beside Snelgrove, at least two other fans were struck by the pellets: 24-year-old Paul Gately of Cambridge was struck in the face, requiring stitches to patch a hole in his cheek, as well as several times in his torso, leaving bruises and welts. Also, Kapila Bhamidipati, of Bridgewater, N.J., was struck in the temple and said doctors had to remove small pieces of plastic from his forehead and found a large piece embedded under his skin.

Police are conducting an internal investigation into last week’s shooting, examining, among other things, whether police used excessive force and whether they received proper training in the use of the FN303, a compressed-air gun made by FN Herstal.

The Boston Globe reported Tuesday, based on two unidentified sources, that one of the four officers who fired the pepper balls was a high-ranking officer, Deputy Superintendent Robert E. Toole. O’Toole had no comment for the newspaper.

The Boston Herald reported that officers involved in Snelgrove’s death have been distraught since the death.

Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley’s office will review the results of the police investigation and determine whether the use of force was legal.

Police and prosecutors will meet with the family to explain the results, which will then be made public. The process is expected to take several months.


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