A Boston man armed with a large kitchen knife and threatening violence was arrested without serious injury last weekend after police officers struck him six times using a shotgun that fired small beanbags, knocking him down long enough so they could restrain him. The man’s sister said the “less-lethal” weaponry saved her brother's life, says the Boston Globe. The killings of men and boys by police in Ferguson, Mo., Staten Island, and Cleveland have stoked protests around the U.S. and the Boston man could easily have become the latest to be shot to death by police.
The beanbag barrage that subdued him averted what might have become a deadly confrontation, and the weapon that took him down could see wider use in similar cases. “Clearly we had justification here for using lethal force,” said Boston Police Commissioner William Evans; the man weighs 290 pounds and was brandishing a 13-inch knife. Situations that involve mental illness are the most obvious uses for the beanbag rounds, Evans said, estimating that they are only used about a half-dozen times a year. “It's been an effective tool for us,” Evans said — one that could be used more often “dealing especially with the mentally ill.” The beanbags, which are fired from 12-gauge shotguns that have been modified to accept the special shells, are also known as flexible projectiles or “Super Sock” rounds.