The violent overnight trail carved through Greater Boston by the two suspects in the Boston Marathon bombings has left in its wake two more victims, both young police officers who became friends as classmates in a police academy. Now, one officer is dead, and the other is hospitalized, fighting for his life.
The tragic intertwining of these four lives began around 10:20 Thursday night, when, according to law enforcement officials, Massachusetts Institute of Technology police received reports of gunfire on the Cambridge campus. Responding officers soon found their colleague, MIT Officer Sean A. Collier, 26, dead from multiple gunshots after possibly being ambushed in his police vehicle.
As investigators were determining that two men -- believed to be the suspects, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, and his brother, Dzhokhar, 19 -- had shot Officer Collier, word came from another part of Cambridge of a carjacking of a Mercedes-Benz sport utility vehicle at gunpoint by two men who would release its owner a half-hour later.
Within two hours, some of the officers who had responded to the MIT shooting were racing to Watertown, about five miles west, where local police had tried to pull over the carjacked vehicle. In the ensuing shootout, the older Mr. Tsarnaev was shot dead, and a Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority police officer, Richard H. Donohue, 33, was seriously wounded.
Throughout the night and into the day, most of the nation focused its attention on the search for the younger Mr. Tsarnaev, a dragnet that had the Boston area in a nerve-jangling lockdown. Meanwhile, friends and family members of the two officers mourned and worried on the sidelines of an unfolding international event.
Officer Collier was a compact man with a crackling intellect who seemed born to be a police officer. "People come into police work for a lot of reasons," MIT police Chief John DiFava said. "He was one of those who came on because it was really what he was meant to do with his life."
The chief said Officer Collier won over many MIT students, in part by joining the Outing Club, whose members hike, ski and explore the New England outdoors. "And I'll tell you, they loved him," the chief said.
That affection is reflected in many online reminiscences from students who recalled his easygoing but protective nature. Among the outdoors crowd, he was known for his willingness to yodel, for sharing his pepperoni snacks, and for making the most of every moment, as when he wrote a note inviting people to hike a part of the White Mountains on the anniversary of an ascent of Mount Everest by Polish mountaineer Krzysztof Wielicki: "... so feel free to bring any Polish dishes, wear Poland's colors (red and white), bring a Polish flag (because you know you have one laying around your apartment), or just actually be from Poland (cool!) to commemorate this awesome feat."
According to The Boston Globe, Officer Donohue and his wife have a 7-month-old son and live in Woburn, where neighbors say he is a good athlete and runner. The Globe also reported that his former neighbors in Winchester had honored him by lining their yards with small American flags.
Just three months ago, the MBTA transit police chief, Paul MacMillan, awarded Officer Donohue a certificate of commendation for rushing to the aid of a man stabbed in the throat in Boston's Chinatown station. On Friday, Chief MacMillan was honoring the officer again.
"Facing extraordinary danger, Officer Donohue never hesitated in fully engaging the terrorists in order to protect the citizens of the commonwealth," the chief said in a statement. "I am extremely proud of him, and cannot say enough about his heroic actions."
First Published April 20, 2013 4:00 AM