Sean Collier, then a civilian at the Somerville Police Department, where he worked in information technology for five years, had dreamed of becoming a police officer. So he left last year to become a patrol officer at MIT, but his name still floated to the top of the list for consideration as a cop in Somerville.
When his former colleagues there heard that he had been killed in a shootout Thursday night with the alleged Boston Marathon bombers, they were "devastated."
"All the girls and dispatchers can't stop crying," Lt. William Rymill of the Somerville Police said. "It's a real shock to us. He was not liked, he was loved.
"We have lost a member of the family," he added.
Collier, 26, was found in his car at about 10:20 p.m. Thursday night at the corner of Vassar Street and Main Street in Cambridge, on the MIT campus, authorities said. He was transported to Massachusetts General Hospital with multiple gunshot wounds, where he was pronounced dead.
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One of Collier's police academy colleagues, MBTA officer Richard H. Donahue Jr., 33, was injured hours later, when police pulled over a carjacked vehicle with the alleged bombing suspects. Donahue, who's from Woburn, was wounded with a critical wound to the thigh, according to the Boston Globe.
He is reportedly in stable condition.
Collier and Donahue were "actually really good friends" who graduated from the same 26-member MBTA Police Academy class together three years ago, Milton Police officer Michael Delaney told the Boston Herald.
"It's bizarre," Delaney said. "To take two of them out of there, it's a decent percentage."
Donahue was a devoted father to this 7-month-old son, according to the Globe. He and his wife, Kimberly, had moved to Somerville about a year ago.
Collier was a 2004 graduate of Wilmington High School and received a criminal justice degree and graduated with honors from Salem State University in 2009, The Boston Herald reported.
MIT remembered Collier for his devotion to police work and to students.
"Sean was one of these guys who really looked at police work as a calling," MIT Police Chief John DiFava said in a prepared release. "He was born to be a police officer."
DiFava said Collier was closely involved with MIT's student population and was active in the university's outing clubs, accompanying them skiing and hiking.
Before arriving at MIT in January of 2012, Collier was technical adviser to the Somerville police and had a "vast knowledge" of computers, Lt. Rymill said.
"He was an unbelievably smart person and would drop anything he was doing to help us," he said. "I used to joke that I was as computer literate as my shoe. Officers would call him with problems on the phone and he would say, 'I'll swing by the house and look at in on my way to work.'"
Even though Collier served in a civilian capacity at the department, he had been eager to serve as a full police officer, Rymill told ABCNews.com. He was not married and lived in Somerville. He reportedly grew up in Wilmington, Mass.
Collier was active in the department's auxiliary unit. He was also a "full-fledged" trained officer from the MBTA Police Academy, where Donahue had been trained.
"He was high up on the list," Rymill said. "He probably could have been in an officer position because his name was up for consideration. Whether he would have decided to leave MIT, I don't know. But it was his dream to be a cop and he took the first opportunity that came up."
Somerville police are right next door to MIT in Cambridge and Collier and his fellow officers had kept "close ties."
"I can tell you he was less than a half-mile away from the station," Rymill said. "Some others in the auxiliary went on to MIT like Sean."
Rymill said Collier loved camping and had recently saved enough money to purchase a new truck, "one he had wanted all his life."
"We are devastated, we have lost family," he said of Collier.
In a letter to MIT parents, university ambulance driver Dylan Soukup, who was one of the first responders at the shooting, said Collier had "one of the biggest, brightest, never-ending smiles."
"There was not a day that we drove by him in his patrol car, saw him walking around campus, or were responding to an emergency call with him that he didn't stop to say hello, talk with us, help us, or at the very least shoot us a big bright smile," he wrote.
NASCAR driver Jimmie Johnson of Hendrick Motorsports sent his "thoughts and prayers" to Collier's family when he spoke at a news conference in Kansas City, Kan., today. Collier's brother Andrew is a machinist in the team's engine shop.
" … I certainly know it's the same thing with everyone at Hendrick Motorsports," Johnson said. "We're one big family and it's sad to see a teammate going through this."
Collier's family released a statement today asking for privacy:
"We are heartbroken by the loss of our wonderful and caring son and brother, Sean Collier. Our only solace is that Sean died bravely doing what he committed his life to -- serving and protecting others. We are thankful for the outpouring of support and condolences offered by so many people."