Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
October 25, 2004

A doctor weighs in on what went wrong to cause a pepper spray projectile fired by Boston cops to kill a young woman celebrating the Red Sox' ALCS victory.

UPDATE: My bad; I really just skimmed this before I linked to it, since the writer appears to have some useful knowledge on the subject, but I don't necessarily endorse the implication some people have drawn from this that the Boston PD doesn't deserve a good bit of the blame for this. I absolutely don't think that the Boston PD should be let off the hook here, and I say that as a great believer in giving cops the benefit of the doubt in dealing with difficult situations. One of the first rules of policing is, either you shoot to kill or you don't shoot. Projectiles like this shouldn't be fired directly at people if there's no reason to use deadly force.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 07:00 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (15) | TrackBack (1)

I'm glad to see your medical expert had plenty of conservative politics to throw in there, yet no real contribution to the medical reasons why the girl died.

Damn liberal media. And those trial lawyers...

Posted by: Mr Furious at October 25, 2004 10:13 AM

The Boston Globe reports today that 2 others have since been reported as being taken to local area hospitals with pepper pellet injuries.

One of the men had a dime sized hole torn through his cheek. The other had been hit in the forehead but nothing else was reported.

If a pellet can rip a dime sized hole in somebody's cheek, I'm not surprised it could be fatal if it scored a direct hit on somebody's eye socket.

The fact this guy is floating out ideas such as her being allergic to the pepper is pathetic.

As for his media bias, I've seen a number of reports about the fans bringing some of this on themselves. Its not as one sided as this guy would like you to believe.

But really, you send your kid off to school, is it highly unlikely they'd find themselves at a public gathering of fellow drunks after the Sox beat the Yanks? No. Would you want them to behave? Of course. Would you be upset if the cops fired pepper pellets at them? A little, but ultimately, its an inherent risk involved when you put yourself in that position. Should cops be given the tools to control a riot? Of course. Should pepper pellets be one of those tools? If they're effective.

Should cops be taking head shots with the pepper pellets?

I've seen numerous photos where cops are aiming directly into the crowd at head level.

There's something wrong about that image and the responsibility doesn't rest solely with the students.

Posted by: C Giddy at October 25, 2004 10:39 AM

PS - This guy refers to injuries involving paint balls.

Pepper pellets are hardly paint balls. They've even got fins to steady their trajectory.

And paint balls don't rip holes through people's cheeks.

Posted by: C Giddy at October 25, 2004 10:41 AM

I'm not sure how shooting people in the face with a blinding, painful substance (even if they are unscathed from the violent administration) helps "calm" a crowd anyway...

I blogged about this last week, and I still reserve most of my criticism for the out of control idiots who put themselves in the position of a police crackdown. The police are clearly in an awkward position, but it seems they may have been hasty and reckless in administering too strong a response to the situation.

Posted by: Mr Furious at October 25, 2004 10:53 AM

Here's what I said last week [cleaned up some for the Cranks' PG-rated language sensitivity]:

But it really comes down to the fans. I just don't understand the mentality that results in the riots, fires and car-flipping that seems to be the response to winning a Championship. I could understand it more after losing, but winning? All I want to do (drunk or not) is jump up and down, run around hugging and high-fiving people. When the Pats won a trip to the SuperBowl in '97, I was there, and had no desire to run down and tear up the field or pull down the goalposts. I never run out from a bar or Superbowl party and start lighting cars on fire, and I don't understand why anyone would. Unfortunately, I have a feeling that Boston is going to burn when the Series is over -- win or lose. "What the [hell] is the matter with these people?"

It sounds like the Police over-reacted in this situation, but they have to be prepared for total mayhem, so I'm sure they are twitching with a hair trigger. The Boston mayor is "considering prohibiting liquor sales and asking bar and restaurant operators to ban live television coverage during games to curb the rowdiness. Since people won't accept responsibility, I, as mayor, will take it into my own hands,'' Menino said Thursday. No alcohol or live games in bars? That's insane! there'll be a riot when he makes the announcement! But what the hell is he supposed to do?

People are idiots. Sure, the Sox might win the first Championship in 86 years, or they might blow it in spectacular fashion. Either way you don't need to run outside throw anything through store windows, flip anything over or light anything on fire.

Posted by: Mr Furious at October 25, 2004 11:02 AM

Amen to that.

Posted by: The Crank at October 25, 2004 11:13 AM

The fans bear ultimate responsibility.

The last two nights I've seen the cops dressed in riot gear and believe me, it looks like they could survive getting hit by a Mack truck or an attack by a Grizzly. And yet I still wouldn't want to face a crowd of thousands like these guys were required to last Wednesday night.

Last night I saw a drunk fan approach one of the riot police and extend his hand. Idiot drunk but not necessarily rowdy drunk. You could sense that on the one hand the cop didn't want to seem too friendly, on the other he didn't want the fan to make an inane scene because he wouldn't shake his hand. So the cop shook his hand after a moment, and that was the end of it.

The issue doesn't seem to be police brutality. And I'm certainly not eqiupped to deal with the larger issues that would have to be addressed to stop rioting in the first place. But in addressing the things that we can control, it would appear that inadequate training played its part.

Having seen the pellets, having seen the warnings from the manufacturers and having seen the damage they can do I'm surprised that any shots were fired above the chest or that any cop would raise their gun above their shoulder and shoot straight ahead.

As for the fans responsibility, I would like to clear the names of Red Sox nation to some degree. I think the rioting can be more attributed to the presence of over 100,000 college students within a 2 mile radius of the ball park. And a lot of those setting cars on fire aren't even Sox fans. Also, even the mild midwesterners with traditional values in Wisconsin have gone on wildings more destructive than those we saw on Wednesday night in Boston. This isn't a reflection on Wisconsin so much as its a reflection on what happens when tens of thousands of young adults get their first real taste of "freedom" without actually having to be responsible for their actions.

When you consider the housing situation and how many students live off campus in the vicinity, the ballpark lies right in the middle of the "extended" campus of BU, the largest private University in America. Northeastern can be reached by foot in less than 15 minutes. 5 MIT fraternities are a 5 minute walk away.

Not that this takes responsibility of the fans. I just want it to be known that Red Sox nation isn't sitting around itching to set a car on fire.

Posted by: C Giddy at October 25, 2004 12:31 PM

I'm real sorry that those who are furious out there are too blinded by their fury to READ, but what I WROTE was that projectile injuries to the eyes don't kill people. I know this for a FACT in three ways:

1. 20 years experience in ERs in NY and Florida
2. Quantitative data from peer-reviewed journal articles that I QUOTED
3. The mechanics of the orbit and the globe which I tried to make simple, but I can do better:

The ORBIT is analagous to a sugared ice cream cone. Cut the small tip off. Lay it on its side. Pack it with ice cream. Put a cherry on the top. The cherry is your eyeball. The sugared cone represents the surrounding orbital walls (those walls are in turn surrounded by empty para-nasal sinuses) and the ice cream is the FAT that fills the orbit.

If I PUNCH or STRIKE or SMASH the cherry with a BAT or a FIST or a SQUASH BALL or a PAINTBALL or a 1-inch-long plastic PEPPER BALL, the cherry explodes and the ice cream is forced down (or back) into the cone. The force IS NOT transmitted out the small hole in the tip of the cone--rather, the sugared walls burst.


Posted by: CodeBlueBlodMD at October 25, 2004 03:04 PM

So its inconceivable that the pepper pellet did not burst and in fact penetrated beyond the "cherry, ice cream and sugared walls"?

Or does your analogy stand even if the pepper pellet failed to burst as designed?

Posted by: C Giddy at October 25, 2004 04:02 PM


The brain is situated BEHIND the orbit (the "cone"). The nerve that connects the eyeball (the cherry) to the brain is like a cable running from the back of the eyeball, through the cone and out the litttle opening at the tip. Then that nerve (cable) goes into the brain to relay info.

The cone is filled with fat (ice cream in my analogy). The walls of the cone are very thin -- unusually so for bone -- and surrounding those walls are empty spaces (the sinuses).

So...think about it...there is dense fat stuffed into a cone behind the eyeball. There's only one way out into the barain -- a small opening that has a fat cable going through it. The walls of the cone are PAPER THIN.

If you PUSH hard or SMACK or POKE or CLOBBER the cherry, the force on the top of the ice cream pushes back and the paper thin walls (the sugar cone) rupture.

If you shoot a bullet directly into the eye, yes, it will penetrate the cone and go into the brain...and if they stand up at The Brigham and say that the pepper ball did NOT rupture and instead sliced through the incredibly dense fat, squeezed past the optic nerve and penetrated the underlying brain...OK I give. That's how she died. But that didn't happen, I guarantee you.

The people on this blog are too hung up on the fact that I was pissed off that the press immediately starting blaming everyone (including the police) for something they don't EVEN KNOW HOW IT HAPPENED.

If the police messed up they should be held accountable for it. But THAT i not my message or my purpose in bringing this issue to light.

My message is that projectile injuries to the eyeball don't kill people.

So then what?

Does nobody care about that?

What if this girl were trampled? Is that a different problem? What if they screwed up in the ER and misdiagnosed her -- Is that a problem?

I apologize for editorializing about the liberal media -- MY bad -- but don't let that take away from the fact that there is a fundamentally strange mechanism of death being postulated here and a 21 year old woman is dead.

We should NONE of us rest until these issues are made completely clear, and I just don't think the press has even broken the surface on this one.

Posted by: CodeBlueBlogMD at October 25, 2004 05:37 PM

An investigation is underway, an autopsy was performed and results of the inquiry will supposedly be available in a couple of months.

I assume that the results of the autopsy will be available much sooner.

Hopefully some answers will emerge well before a couple of months have passed.

One other item of interest is that the police will switch to lower powered guns to deliver the pepper pellet in the future.

And yet another item indicated that a shot to the head would've been contrary to how the officers were trained to use the deterrent.

There are further photos of numerous welts on the abdomen of one of the rioters. They don't look like anything I've seen after an afternoon of playing paintball.

I'm more intrigued by the other possibilities having heard your analysis as an expert, but considering an actor died awhile back playing Russian Roulette with blanks, and having seen pictures of the dead girl and the blood streaming from her eye socket, having seen the welts caused by the pellets and hearing about the switch to a less powerful gun I find it hard to rule out entirely the possibility that she simply died due to the trauma caused by the impact.

While some may have taken issue to your apparent, yet unintentional exoneration of the police, I think more people had issues with the absolute certainty in which you made your case.

Could a similar blow to the temple cause death and profuse bleeding from the orbit?

Posted by: C Giddy at October 25, 2004 09:51 PM

At least it wasn't Guiliani. He would've asked the registrar to release the woman's academic records (no privacy rights for the deceased, thank you.)

Posted by: hometeamloses at October 25, 2004 10:37 PM

"My message is that projectile injuries to the eyeball don't kill people."

Moe Greene would probably disagree.

Posted by: Vitriolics at October 26, 2004 08:54 AM

Oh, well, then I guess she's not dead. I mean, if it's impossible to kill someone with a shot to the eyeball, then she must still be alive. Probably it's all a hoax by the Boston Herald to sell papers. Or, wait, how about this...a rioting fan actually snuck up behind her and strangled her during the melee, then picked up a pepper ball "bullet" and jammed it in her eye after the fact, while no one was looking. Ahem. This discussion reminds me of the Trivial Pursuit trick where you answer every question relating to how someone died with: "Lack of oxygen to the brain." If I drop a bomb on your house, I didn't kill you and the bomb didn't kill just perished in the flames after the fact! Yes, let's agree that the pepper ball didn't kill her. Let's also agree that - barring my mysterious strangler postulation - whatever caused her to die happen in FAIRLY SEQUENTIAL ORDER after taking the hit to the face (and the subsequent fall to the pavement). (Unless the doctor is implying that the hospital killed her in the hours following the injury...?) Another way to state this is: do you really believe she'd be dead today if she hadn't been struck?

Posted by: Logical at October 28, 2004 02:11 PM

I'm wondering if your post reflects nihilism or terminal cynacism, or a pathological indifference to detail.

What the heck, eh? Dead is dead. The cops were there (fewer than the 80,000 rioters/revelers I imagine--although surely more sober), a woman died and, what else do we need to know?

If she were in your family, you wouldn't care to know any details right? Let's just pick someone out who looks guilty and pin it on him?

Ever see the movie 12 Angry Men?

I can guarantee you that it matters very much just what the mechanism of this girl's death is. It is going to matter very much to officer O'Toole (accused of firing the pepperball gun) and it surely going to matter in a big way to the flock of tort attorneys lining up to sue the police, the Red Sox, the pepperball company and Anheiser-Busch.

Intelligent, informed curiosity means asking questions, especially when one has expertise that allows one to pursue avenues others -- in their rush to dismiss or plain ignorance -- have left unexplored.

If the girl did not die from that blow to the eye (and all the a priori evidence implies that she did not), and she died, rather, let's say, becasue she had an epidural cerebral hematoma that went undiagnosed becauise an intern was too sleepy (as reported today in New England Journal of Medicine) from 23 hours of straight work--would that matter to you? dead just dead?

Posted by: CodeBlueBlogMD at October 28, 2004 03:13 PM
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