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Slain MIT officer recalled as promising young talent

When Sean Collier couldn’t get onto the 130-member Somerville Police Department in Massachusetts, its ranks full and hiring list long, the recent college graduate volunteered for the city’s auxiliary force, keeping watch over parks, playgrounds and schools.

He took an unglamorous civilian job in the police records room, where he built a web page and introduced Twitter and Facebook to police officers mired in old ways. He left in January 2012 when a spot opened up in neighboring Cambridge, policing the grounds of the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He engaged and protected students, at ease conversing in high-tech language and joining the MIT Outing Club on skiing and hiking trips.

But Collier never took his name off the civil service list in Somerville, and he slowly crept to the top as officers departed and replacements were chosen. The deputy chief said he was on the verge of hiring the 26-year-old officer when bullets fired late Thursday by one or both of the suspected Boston bombers ended his lifelong dream.

Collier was found shot multiple times in his cruiser next to a cancer research building at MIT, about 10 minutes after the police received reports of shots fired on campus. The circumstances of the shooting remain under investigation.

The officer died at Massachusetts General Hospital, a casualty in a
long night of violence in the Boston suburbs linked to the bombings at the finish line of Monday’s Boston Marathon. After a police chase through Cambridge and into Watertown, a transit police officer, Richard Donohue Jr., 33, was seriously wounded in an exchange of gunfire.

Being a police officer, said Somerville Deputy police Chief Paul Upton, “is what Sean wanted to do. He wanted to do it here. And he wanted to be good at it. This is a huge loss to the MIT police department. And though he hadn’t started here yet, it’s already a huge loss for us.”

The officer’s neighbors in Somerville gathered yesterday for a vigil, and some dropped flowers at his
apartment door, according to local media accounts. Some of Collier’s relatives, reached at their home 15 miles northeast of Boston, said they did not want to talk, but several news organizations published a statement from them.

“Our only solace is that Sean died bravely doing what he committed his life to – serving and protecting others,” the family said. “We are thankful for the outpouring of support and condolences offered by so many people.” Collier’s 25-year-old brother, Andrew, works as a machinist for Hendrick Motorsports.

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