MIT Officer Died Protecting His Community, In Job He Loved

Apr 20, 2013
Originally published on April 20, 2013 4:30 pm

The grisly week that began at the Boston Marathon Monday left one police officer dead.

As police closed in on the bombing suspects Thursday night, law enforcement officials say two officers were shot. One, transit police officer Richard Donohue, is in critical condition at Mount Auburn Hospital.

The other, Sean Collier of the MIT campus police, was pronounced dead Thursday night.

MIT says Collier had gone to respond to a report of an altercation on campus Thursday evening. Soon, word came over the police radio that he had been shot.

Collier was taken to Massachusetts General Hospital at about 10:30 that night with multiple gunshot wounds. He was pronounced dead there.

On Friday, those who knew him were still trying to make sense of a death that came all too soon.

Eric Metchik, Collier's criminal justice professor at Salem State University, said it was "a moment of great shock." He called Collier an outstanding student and a great person. "[He was] a student I had kept in touch with over the years and just gone in a flash."

Collier grew up in the Boston area. He was a baby-faced 26-year-old, friendly and outgoing. Metchik said he was also very serious about police work.

"He knew what he wanted to study and what he wanted to do, and he was very dedicated to the law enforcement profession," Metchik said.

He said Collier was something of a technophile, and he returned to Salem State to talk to students about the ways technology could aid police work. After college, Collier took a civilian job in the IT department in the city of Somerville, a Boston suburb.

"He was someone dedicated to his work, passionate, that had a passion for the job, full of life, extremely talented and smart," Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone told Boston member station WBUR on Friday.

Curtatone said he had hoped to hire Collier one day as a police officer. But in the meantime, Collier took a job on the campus police at MIT.

He had been at the school just 15 months when he died. Friday, the campus set up a Tumblr account where people could post reminiscences of him.

He was remembered as someone who was easily able to mix with students. Last year, he joined the MIT Outing Club and made a dangerous midwinter trek to Mount Washington in New Hampshire.

"[He] really just impressed me with how totally he embraced winter hiking," says Matthew Gilbertson, an officer in the club. "He wasn't afraid to really take the plunge and learn all the skills that you need to learn."

Gilbertson said the club hadn't had a police officer in recent memory, but Collier quickly assimilated into the group and became one of its more active members.

"With Sean, you just sort of forgot that he was a police officer. I mean, we all were definitely kind of proud to have him on the police force as an MIT Outing Club member," Gilbertson says.

He said Collier grew so enthusiastic about hiking that he talked about scaling much more challenging peaks in Alaska and Africa. That will no longer be possible. Collier's family issued a statement Friday:

"Our only solace is that Sean died bravely doing what he committed his life to, serving and protecting others."

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Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

The grizzly spree of violence that began at the Boston Marathon this week, also left a police officer dead. Sean Collier of the MIT campus police. NPR's Jim Zarroli talked to people who knew Sean Collier and filed this report.

JIM ZARROLI, BYLINE: MIT says Officer Collier had gone to respond to a report about an alteration on campus Thursday evening. Soon word came over the police radio that he had been shot.

(SOUNDBITE OF POLICE COMMUNICATION)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE #1: Officer down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE #2: Where is that ambulance unit, please?

ZARROLI: Collier was taken to Massachusetts General Hospital at about 10:30 that night with multiple gunshot wounds and pronounced dead. Yesterday, those who knew him were still trying to make sense of a death that came all too soon. Eric Metchik was his criminal justice professor at Salem State University. The moment of great shock that here was a student who not only was a student in my classes, but who was such an outstanding student and such a great person. A student that I had kept in touch with over the years and just gone in a flash. Collier grew up in the Boston area. He was a baby-faced 26-year-old, friendly and outgoing. Metchik says he was also very serious about police work.

ERIC METCHIK: A moment of great shock. You know, here was a student who was not only a student in my class, but was such an outstanding student and such a great person; a student that I had kept in touch with over the years, and just gone in a flash.

SIMON: Collier grew up in the Boston area. He was a baby-face 26-year-old, friendly and outgoing. Metchik says he was also very serious about police work.

METCHIK: He knew what he wanted to study and what he wanted to do and he was very dedicated into the law enforcement profession.

ZARROLI: Metchik says Collier was something of a technophile and he returned to Salem State to talk to students about the ways that technology could aid police work. After college, he took a civilian job in the IT department in the city of Summerville, a Boston suburb. Summerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone talked to WBUR in Boston yesterday.

MAYOR JOSEPH CURTATONE: He was someone dedicated to his work, compassionate. He had a passion for the job, full of life, extremely talented and smart.

ZARROLI: Curtatone said he hoped to hire Collier one day as a police officer, but in the meantime Collier took a job on the campus police force at MIT. He had been at the school just 15 months when he died. Yesterday, the campus set up a website where people could post reminiscences about him. He was remembered as someone who was easily able to mix with students.

Last year, he joined the MIT Outing Club and made a challenging mid-winter trek to Mount Washington in New Hampshire. Matthew Gilbertson is an officer at the club.

MATTHEW GILBERTSON: He really just impressed me with how totally he embraced winter hiking. He wasn't afraid to really take the plunge and learn all the skills he needed to learn.

ZARROLI: Gilbertson said the club hadn't had a police officer in recent memory, but Collier quickly assimilated into the group and became one of its more active members.

GILBERTSON: With Sean, you just sort of forgot that he was a police officer. I mean, we all were definitely kind of proud to have him be on the police forces and MIT Outing Club member.

ZARROLI: Gilbertson said Collier grew so enthusiastic about hiking that he talked about scaling much more challenging peaks in Alaska and Africa. Now, that will no longer be possible. Yesterday, Collier's family issued a statement: Our only solace, it said, is that Sean died bravely doing what he committed his life to do, serving and protecting others. Jim Zarroli, NPR News, Boston.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIMON: And tomorrow on WEEKEND EDITION SUNDAY, Rachel Martin will have more on the dramatic resolution of the manhunt for the remaining suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings. We'll also talk with Dennis Lehane, the Boston writer, the author of many books about his city, including "Mystic River."

And of course, you can always get the latest coverage online at npr.org.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIMON: And you're listening to NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.