ALL PARTS
PART I
Scott Olsen — "I Didn't Realize How Bad It Was."

PART I - Scott Olsen“I DIDN'T REALIZE HOW BAD IT WAS.”

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Shot in the head by police firing bean-bag rounds at demonstrators, this veteran awoke from a coma, returned to protesting, and became a symbol to the Occupy movement. Ten years later, he represents a life shattered by the misuse of less-lethal munitions.

READ PART I
 
PART II
Andre Miller — What Is a Rubber Bullet?

PART II - Andre MillerWhat is a rubber bullet?

Andre Miller, who was shot in the head with a tear-gas canister in July 2020, is photographed at his home in Portland, Ore., in June 2022.

Less-lethal munitions come in all shapes and sizes and can leave behind devastating wounds. Victims of KIPs often don’t know what hit them, unless — like this Black Lives Matter protester — there’s shrapnel left behind.

READ PART II
 
PART III
Richard Moore — The Original Rubber Bullet

PART III - Richard MooreThe original rubber bullet

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This 10-year-old from Derry, Northern Ireland was shot in the face with a rubber bullet while running home from school, an attack that blinded him for life. In the decades since, the U.K. has turned away from less-lethal munitions while U.S. law enforcement has increasingly embraced them. Why?

READ PART III
 
PART IV
Victoria Snelgrove — When Things Go Wrong

PART IV - Victoria SnelgroveWhen Things Go Wrong

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Everyone knew if the Red Sox ever beat the Yankees, Boston would burst. But what actually happened when they finally won exceeded people's worst fears. How a euphoric riot, a lack of police training, and an untested less-lethal weapon left a woman dead and city leaders searching for answers.

READ PART IV
 
PART V
Minneapolis
PART VI
Austin
TIMELINE
A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE
 
01
02
03
04
05
06
07
08
09
10
11
12
13
14
15
THE PEOPLE VS. RUBBER BULLETSPART IV

Victoria SnelgroveWhen Things Go Wrong

BY
Linda Rodriguez McRobbie

A photograph of Victoria Snelgrove, who was killed in 2004 when a Boston police officer shot her with a less-lethal weapon, appears at a memorial one year after her death.

David L. Ryan / The Boston Globe / Getty

Red Sox players storm the field at Yankee Stadium after defeating New York to win the 2004 American League championship.
Red Sox players storm the field at Yankee Stadium after defeating New York to win the 2004 American League championship.
Amy Sancetta / Associated Press
Boston's Kenmore Square, where police and baseball fans clashed following the Red Sox's American League Championship Series victory over the New York Yankees in 2004.
Beacon Street and Commonwealth Avenue converge in Boston's Kenmore Square, where police and baseball fans clashed following the Red Sox's American League Championship Series victory over the Yankees in 2004.
Backyard Capture / Alamy
Mounted police keep an eye on revelers outside Fenway Park.
Mounted police keep an eye on revelers outside Fenway Park.
Darren McCollester / Getty Images
Fan scale the outer walls of Fenway Park.
Fan scale the outer walls of Fenway Park.
Darren McCollester / Getty Images
A group of men attempt to roll over a car in Kenmore Square after the Red Sox victory.
A group of men attempt to roll over a car in Kenmore Square after the Red Sox victory.
Matthew J. Lee / The Boston Globe / Getty
A Boston police officer aims an FN303 pepper ball gun at the crowd outside Fenway Park.
A Boston police officer aims an FN303 pepper ball gun at the crowd outside Fenway Park.
Mary Knox Merrill / Associated Press
Commander Robert O'Toole (second from left) stands outside Fenway Park with officers who appear to be Rochefort Milien (center) and Samir Silta (right) holding FN303 pepper ball guns.
Commander Robert O'Toole (second from left) stands outside Fenway Park with officers who appear to be Rochefort Milien (center) and Samir Silta (right) holding FN303 pepper ball guns.
Michael Seamans / Boston Herald / Getty
Victoria Snelgrove's family follows her casket out of St. John's Catholic church in East Bridgewater, Mass. after her funeral on Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2004.
Victoria Snelgrove's family follows her casket out of St. John's Catholic church in East Bridgewater, Mass. after her funeral on Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2004.
Michael Dwyer / Associated Press

“Just pull the trigger”

A Boston Police detective photographs the crime scene outside Fenway Park where Snelgrove was killed by an officer firing a less-lethal weapon.
A Boston Police detective photographs the crime scene outside Fenway Park where Snelgrove was killed by an officer firing a less-lethal weapon.
Mark Garfinkel / Boston Herald / Getty
Paul Gately displays some of the wounds he sustained from Boston police firing pepper balls.
Paul Gately displays some of the wounds he sustained from Boston police firing pepper balls.
George Rizer / The Boston Globe / Getty
Kapila Bhamidipati removes a bandage to show the pepper ball wound he suffered outside of Fenway Park.
Kapila Bhamidipati removes a bandage to show the pepper ball wound he suffered outside of Fenway Park.
Bill Greene / The Boston Globe / Getty
A Federal Protective Service officer fires an FN303 launcher.
A Federal Protective Service officer fires an FN303 launcher.
A Federal Protective Service officer fires an FN303 launcher during a security demonstration prior to the 2004 Democratic National Convention at Massachusetts State Police Headquarters in Framingham, Mass.
Above: Darren McCollester / Getty; Below: Brian Snyder / Reuters

Training daze

There is no national agency that mandates training, safety procedures or standards, or use-of-force policies. Nor is there a national standard for training or certifying officers in the use of less-lethal weapons.

Boston Police commissioner Kathleen O'Toole announces a settlement between the city and the family of Victoria Snelgrove.
Boston Police commissioner Kathleen O'Toole announces a settlement between the city and the family of Victoria Snelgrove.
Justine Hunt / The Boston Globe / Getty
These FN303 projectiles are similar to the pepper balls that killed Victoria Snelgrove.
These FN303 projectiles are similar to the pepper balls that killed Victoria Snelgrove.
Todd Burgreen / Small Arms Defense Journal, Vol. 4 (2012)

Untested tools

“Police currently have too little solid information about the capabilities of various less-lethal tools, as well as their dangers and limitations.” — Police Executive Research Forum, February 2022

An FN303 on display during a press conference showing off weapons for the war on terror at the Pentagon in Virginia, on Aug. 12, 2005.
An FN303 on display during a press conference showing off weapons for the war on terror at the Pentagon in Virginia, on Aug. 12, 2005.
Kevin Dietsch / UPI
An FN Herstal exhibition booth at the Defence Services Asia 2018 international exhibition in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
An FN Herstal exhibition booth at the Defence Services Asia 2018 international exhibition in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Chris Jung / Alamy
A Los Angeles police officer heads out for patrol carrying a less-lethal shotgun in November 2010.
A Los Angeles police officer heads out for patrol carrying a less-lethal shotgun in November 2010.
Bob Riha, Jr. / Getty

Looking away from the problem  

Manuals like Rex Applegate’s “Riot Control” guided officers through the unrest of the 1960s, before less-lethal munitions arrived the U.S.
Manuals like Rex Applegate’s “Riot Control” guided officers through the unrest of the 1960s, before less-lethal munitions arrived the U.S.
Paladin Press

“When I taught de-escalation, it was, ‘Oh, this is one of those hug-a-thug classes,’” recalls Sgt. Donnell Walters. “Excuse me? Wow.”

In the aftermath of the police killing of George Floyd, Minnesota State Police officers are backed by Minnesota National Guardmembers and armored personnel carriers in front of the state house on May 31, 2020.
In the aftermath of the police killing of George Floyd, Minnesota State Police officers are backed by Minnesota National Guardmembers and armored personnel carriers in front of the state house on May 31, 2020.
Danny Wilcox Frazier / VII / Red​ux

“Boot-camp style police academies”

On the eve of the 2004 Democratic Convention in Boston, a Boston Police officer carries an FN303 as protesters demonstrate nearby.
On the eve of the 2004 Democratic Convention in Boston, a Boston Police officer carries an FN303 as protesters demonstrate nearby.
Alamy
A Los Angeles police officer aims his less-lethal weapon at a demonstrator during a June 2020 protest.
A Los Angeles police officer aims his less-lethal weapon at a demonstrator during a June 2020 protest.
Jae C. Hong / Associated Press

Police in every country grapple with this uncertainty, but in the United States, law-enforcement officers face an additional worry: guns. America leads the world in gun ownership, with 120.5 guns per 100 citizens.

Federal agents and protestors converge near the U.S. District Court building in Portland, Ore. in July 2020.
Federal agents and protestors converge near the U.S. District Court building in Portland, Ore. in July 2020.
Mason Trinca / The New York Times

The myth of the non-lethal weapon

Victoria Snelgrove's headstone.
Victoria Snelgrove's headstone.
Jax Leduc for Long Lead
Fenway Park observes a moment of silence for Victoria Snelgrove before the start of Game 1 of the 2004 World Series on October 23, 2004.
Fenway Park observes a moment of silence for Victoria Snelgrove before the start of Game 1 of the 2004 World Series on October 23, 2004.
Ray Stubblebine / Reuters
PART I
Scott Olsen — "I Didn't Realize How Bad It Was."

PART I - Scott Olsen“I DIDN'T REALIZE HOW BAD IT WAS.”

Thumbnail part I

Shot in the head by police firing bean-bag rounds at demonstrators, this veteran awoke from a coma, returned to protesting, and became a symbol to the Occupy movement. Ten years later, he represents a life shattered by the misuse of less-lethal munitions.

READ PART I
 
PART II
Andre Miller — What Is a Rubber Bullet?

PART II - Andre MillerWhat is a rubber bullet?

Andre Miller, who was shot in the head with a tear-gas canister in July 2020, is photographed at his home in Portland, Ore., in June 2022.

Less-lethal munitions come in all shapes and sizes and can leave behind devastating wounds. Victims of KIPs often don’t know what hit them, unless — like this Black Lives Matter protester — there’s shrapnel left behind.

READ PART II
 
PART III
Richard Moore — The Original Rubber Bullet

PART III - Richard MooreThe original rubber bullet

Thumbnail part III

This 10-year-old from Derry, Northern Ireland was shot in the face with a rubber bullet while running home from school, an attack that blinded him for life. In the decades since, the U.K. has turned away from less-lethal munitions while U.S. law enforcement has increasingly embraced them. Why?

READ PART III
 
PART IV
Victoria Snelgrove — When Things Go Wrong

PART IV - Victoria SnelgroveWhen Things Go Wrong

Thumbnail part IV

Everyone knew if the Red Sox ever beat the Yankees, Boston would burst. But what actually happened when they finally won exceeded people's worst fears. How a euphoric riot, a lack of police training, and an untested less-lethal weapon left a woman dead and city leaders searching for answers.

READ PART IV
 
PART V
Minneapolis
PART VI
Austin
TIMELINE
A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE
 
WARNING

This website contains graphic images of violence that some people may find disturbing.