'Dedicated officer' gunned down by Boston Marathon suspects at MIT
By NBC News
By Elizabeth Chuck and Miranda Leitsinger, NBC News
(NBC) -- A young college police officer beloved by his colleagues has been identified by authorities as the latest casualty of the Boston Marathon bombing suspects.
Sean Collier, 26, of Somerville, was an officer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass. He was found shot in his vehicle on the campus late Thursday night as authorities pursued two brothers named as suspects in Monday's deadly marathon attack.
MIT Police Chief John DiFava described Collier as "a dedicated officer who was extremely well liked by his colleagues and the MIT community" in a press release on Friday.
"Sean was one of these guys who really looked at police work as a calling," DiFava said. "He was born to be a police officer."
Collier received multiple gunshot wounds, according to the Middlesex District Attorney in Massachusetts. He was transported to Massachusetts General Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Collier crossed paths with the two suspects, Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, at approximately 10:20 p.m. Thursday night,authorities said -- roughly five hours after the FBI released surveillance photos of the two men they say planted twin bombs near the finish line of Monday's Boston Marathon, killing three people and wounding 176.
The suspects robbed a convenience store, then shot Collier on the MIT campus following an altercation, according to authorities. They then allegedly carjacked a Mercedes SUV, holding the driver hostage for a half hour before freeing him at a gas station in Cambridge, according to sources.
On their way to the neighboring town of Watertown, they tossed explosive devices outside the SUV's window, officials said. In a long exchange of gunfire between the suspects and authorities, a transit officer, Richard Donahue, was seriously injured. The older brother, Tamerlan, died after the gun battle, and a large manhunt is underway for the second suspect.
In a tragic coincidence, Collier and Donahue were "actually really good friends" who graduated from the same 26-member police academy class together three years ago, according to Milton, Mass., police officer Michael Delaney, who went to the academy with them.
"It's bizarre," Delaney said. "To take two of them out of there, it's a decent percentage." Delaney, 36, said both Collier and Donahue lived in Somerville. He remembered Collier as a "technology nerd."
"He was definitely the smartest kid in the class. He built us a website that the instructors didn't know about, but we used as a forum to communicate with each other outside of class." Delaney said. "Sometimes [the teachers] weren't so clear on the instructions. It helped ensure that no one screwed up."
Delaney said he heard on the news that an MIT officer had been shot last night, and he immediately texted Collier. When his friend didn't text back, he started to worry. Hours later, he found out from a Facebook group he and other police officers from the academy are in that Collier was shot.
"I don't even think his family knew at that point," he said. "He was a really nice kid." Collier, who wasn't married, had only been a patrol officer at MIT since Jan. 9, 2012, according to the university. He was part of the MIT Outing club, which went on ski and hiking trips.
"In a very short period of time, it was remarkable how engaged he was with students, particularly graduate students," DiFava said.
Before working for MIT, he was an IT civilian employee at the Somerville police department. MIT's president said his death reverberated throughout the entire university community.
"The loss of Officer Collier is deeply painful to the entire MIT community," L. Rafael Reif said.
The school's executive vice president and treasure, Israel Ruiz, added, "The MIT Police serve all of us at the Institute with great dignity, honor and dedication. Everyone here — those who knew Officer Collier, and those who did not — are devastated by the events that transpired on our campus last night. We will never forget the seriousness with which he took his role protecting MIT and those of us who consider it home."
As of Friday morning, police had cordoned off Collier's Somerville home with yellow tape.
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