CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) — Slain Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer Sean Collier enjoyed climbing snowy mountains, training young boxers and playing kickball on a team called Kickhopopotamus.
But most of all, he was dedicated to being a police officer.
The baby-faced 26-year-old who authorities say was killed by the Boston Marathon suspects was at MIT for just over a year and impressed students and his colleagues with his contagious enthusiasm, be it offering students rides or volunteering for extra duties.
“Just the other day — and I still have it on my computer — he asked me if I would have a problem if he approached the homeless shelter to see if he could become a member of the board of directors, so that he could work with those people down there and try to mitigate problems before the problems develop,” MIT Police Chief John DiFava said Friday.
“The kid was the real deal,” he added.
Investigators say Collier was shot while responding to a report of a disturbance. He was transported to Massachusetts General Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
“Our only solace is that Sean died bravely doing what he committed his life to — serving and protecting others,” his family said in a statement.
MIT says Collier was a native of Wilmington and a Somerville resident who had worked at MIT since January 2012. Before that, he was a civilian employee of the Somerville Police Department — a force he hoped to join one day as an officer.
Collier focused on becoming a police officer after graduating with honors from Salem State University in 2009 with a criminal justice degree. Bob Trane, an alderman in Somerville whose ward includes the home where Collier lived, said the young man contacted him about the process of becoming a police officer.
“He was a young guy with an old soul, mature beyond his years,” Trane said. “He knew what he wanted in life and he was working toward that goal. … His whole life was focused on going into law enforcement.”
Collier helped with Trane’s re-election campaign a couple times by holding a campaign sign on street corners. He also got to know Collier when he worked in the Somerville Police Department.
“He was old school — respectful, courteous, dedicated,” Trane said.
He was also active.
Collier climbed snowy peaks like Mount Washington in New Hampshire with the MIT Outing Club, where members knew him for his enthusiasm and his habit of bringing pepperoni as a trail snack. He helped teach the younger boxers at The Somerville Youth Development & Boxing Club, said trainer Bod Covino. And Collier played in a kickball league on Sunday afternoons with the Kickhopopotamus.
“He participated in our national kickball competition in Las Vegas with his team and was certainly a kickball lover at heart,” Priscilla Vega, a spokeswoman for WAKA Kickball & Social Sports, said in an email
The family did not comment beyond the statement that read in part, “we are heartbroken by the loss of our wonderful and caring son and brother.” Collier’s brother Andrew works for Hendrick Motorsports as a machinist in its engine shop.
Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone, who called Collier’s death “such a tragic loss,” said he was excited about the chance to soon name Collier a Somerville police officer. He said Collier was looking forward to it too.
Meanwhile, the 33-year-old transit police officer who authorities say was severely wounded by the Boston Marathon bombing suspects had surgery Friday. A transit agency spokesman says Officer Richard Donohue remained in critical condition at Mount Auburn Hospital.
“Facing extraordinary danger, Officer Donohue never hesitated in fully engaging the terrorists in order to protect the citizens of the Commonwealth,” Transit Police Chief Paul MacMillan said in a statement. “I am extremely proud of him, and cannot say enough about his heroic actions.”
Donohue graduated in the same police academy class as Collier.
Associated Press writers Mark Jewell, Michael Hill and Michael Kunzelman contributed to this report.