First death of a night of violence in Cambridge and Watertown; intense manhunt ensued

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Photo taken at the scene of the fatal shooting of the MIT police officer late yesterday night near 32 Vassar Street.
Samuel T. Whittemore
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MIT Police Officer Sean A. Collier was fatally shot and killed Thursday night. Collier was shot on Vassar St. in his vehicle near the Stata Center (Bldg. 32) and Koch Institute for Cancer Research (Bldg. 76). He was 27 years old and a resident of Somerville. MIT Police Chief John DiFava, in a statement, described Collier as a dedicated officer who was extremely well liked by his colleagues and the MIT community. At approximately 10:20 p.m., police received reports of shots fired on the MIT campus, the Middlesex County District Attorney’s office said. At 10:30 p.m., Collier was found shot in his vehicle in the area of Vassar and Main streets. He was found with multiple gunshot wounds, and was transported to Massachusetts General Hospital and there pronounced deceased, the statement said.

UPDATE TO THIS ARTICLE: The fallen MIT Police officer has been confirmed to be Sean A. Collier. The Boston Police announced at 9:45 p.m. Friday that the second suspect has been taken into custody. See updates at

Yesterday evening, terrible events unfolded on and near MIT’s campus. An MIT Police officer, who is still unnamed, was reported shot at 10:48 p.m. near the Stata Center, and was transported to Massachusetts General Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Shortly after, investigation into an armed carjacking reported along Memorial Drive led west into Watertown, where two suspects attacked police officers with explosives and stolen weapons. As of press time — 5:30 a.m. — only one suspect has been apprehended; he was shot by police officers and pronounced dead after transport to a local hospital. The other suspect remains at large. Police have secured a perimeter and will resume the search come daylight.

The first tremor of Thursday night’s tragedies arrived around 10:25 p.m. when a postdoctoral student working in Building 76 called the MIT Police to report loud noises, possibly gunshots. At 10:31 p.m. the fallen officer was discovered by another MIT officer between the Stata Center and Building 76. By 12:15 a.m. it was confirmed that the officer had been killed.

As warnings and comfort spread rapidly via social media, the night turned from a single tragedy into a firestorm. Around 12:25 a.m. reports began to arrive that a carjacking victim had been released at 816 Memorial Drive, near the corner with River Street. At press time, connection to the Stata shooting remains unconfirmed.

At 12:45 a.m. explosives were detonated in Watertown, which borders Cambridge to the west. Information over the ensuing hours was chaotic, incomplete, and terrifying. But hopes that the reports were simply overblown, as early reports so often are, faded as police radio confirmed reports of injured officers, a stolen Massachusetts State Police SUV, and the use of long guns and explosives, presumed to have been stolen from the SUV. There were two suspects reported.

By 1:00 a.m., one suspect was in custody and a second was detained. The first suspect had an explosive on his chest that exploded when apprehended. Reports were scattered, with police from MIT, Cambridge, Boston, Brookline, Boston University, the Massachusetts State Police, and others responding to the scene. Several minutes later, fears of more improvised explosive devices led to an order to all police officers: Turn off your cell phones immediately. As members of the media arrived on the scene, they were subject to the same requirement. Fortunately, any explosions after this point are reported to have been controlled detonations, not attacks.

At 1:07 a.m., a second person was apprehended and held prone at gunpoint while officials — and possibly robots — scanned the area around him for explosives. As information propagated between the various police departments and across several channels of communication, it became clear that this second person was not the suspect they were looking for and the manhunt resumed.

Evidence, including motor vehicles and explosive devices, has been located at the scene. However, the second suspect remains at large as of press time. A “strong perimeter” has been established around the surrounding Watertown blocks, and officers are planning to conduct house-to-house searches with the aid of police dogs in the morning.

Links between the three events — the MIT shooting, the carjacking, and the violence in Watertown — were unconfirmed for most of the night. In a statement to The Boston Globe, Massachusetts State Police spokesman David Procopio said that the shooting at MIT and the events in Watertown seem appeared to be connected.

Questions about connections to the Boston Marathon Bombings have of course pervaded discussions and reporting. Boston Police Commissioner Davis has reported that the suspect at large is believed to be the second suspect in the Boston Marathon Bombings. It has now been confirmed that these suspects are the same as the marathon bombing suspects.

The campus response to the evening’s horrors has been one of hope and support. Similar to Monday, many have reached out to confirm friends are safe and aware of the events, as MIT mailing lists overflowed with constant updates. At 5:10 a.m., an email sent to the entire campus from Israel Ruiz and Eric Grimson cancelled Friday classes, saying, “The officer gave his life to defend the peace of our campus. His sacrifice will never be forgotten by the Institute.”

An email from Stephanie Birkhimer ’14 circulated on dormitory mailing lists: “I’m wearing black tomorrow in memory of the MIT officer who was killed tonight, and I invite you all to do the same. That could have easily been any one of us, and I’d like to show some respect to him for protecting us, and mourn the loss of a member of our community.” Students across campus have pledged to do the same.

Joanna Kao, Ethan A. Solomon, and Ian M. Gorodisher contributed reporting.

Anonymous about 10 years ago

Is there any place to leave donations to the family?

DFN about 10 years ago

Yes, an undergraduate had the bright idea of raising money to buy meals for the officers to thank them, with the extra funds going to the family of the fallen officer.

She threw the site together quickly but she's doing a great job raising the funds/publicity so far through the night and early morning.

Anonymous about 10 years ago

This is the most professional reporting I have seen yet this morning. Thank you for practicing responsible journalism and reporting the facts.

Lakia about 10 years ago

Well Matt Damon, another America hater, apparently attended same high school in Cambridge. Someone needs to look into just what the hell they're are teaching at that school.

Anonymous about 10 years ago

4 Are you serious?

@Lakia about 10 years ago

4: What the hell did they teach at your school?

John/Parent about 10 years ago

I agree , this is the most accurate and well written report that I have seen in a very long time..RIP to the fallen officer, and to the rest of the MIT students and staff , look out for each other and your community.

Richard Yoon about 10 years ago

"is there any place to leave donations to the family?"

not just meals, but money for Officer Sean Collier's family... I remember grabbing dinner with him. Super happy nice guy. this is so messed up.

Moira Tamayo about 10 years ago

My son is a senior at MIT. I'm on a business trip in Los Angeles. Thanks for the great reporting so this of us far away can stay in touch.

Anonymous about 10 years ago

Condolences to the Officer, his family and your campus. I'm impressed with your report, but not the unfortunate tragedy that prompted it...

HKA about 10 years ago

Profoundly saddened by the loss of this young man. During my time at M.I.T. (class of '73), the campus police were unarmed. Not that it makes any difference now, but does anyone know whether this is still the case?

Richard Sternberg \'74 about 10 years ago

I'd like to echo the third comment above. After searching CNN and the NY Times it occurred to me to check The Tech. By far this is the most thorough reporting I have found on this tragedy by now (0850).

Anonymous about 10 years ago

HKA: I was '97 and the CPs are very much armed now.

JM about 10 years ago

Great Job, Tech... Last night you were the first ones on the web reporting the news and police chatter about Watertown. The local news was later, then Fox news, and then CNN was way late.

Tom Karlo about 10 years ago

Good article, but that first graph needs more editing - the first sentence is a throwaway that contributes no information value and shouldn't be there.

AK about 10 years ago

Rest in peace, Officer Collier. You were a good soul who clearly cared about the MIT community. I'm so sad to hear it was you who died - such a tragedy.

AK about 10 years ago

MH about 10 years ago

Rest in peace.

MIT Crime Club about 10 years ago

MIT Harvard and Cambridge police transmissions are being rebroadcast on MIT Crime Club radio

mitcrimeclub .org /scanner .html

MaxUser 200

Anonymous about 10 years ago

Does anyone know the name of the person who was hijacked? Any detaiks about him?

dove about 10 years ago

#11, #13: Yes, they are indeed armed. Every officer I have seen has been armed with a SIG Sauer handgun, probably a P229. Even those sent on mundane things like letting people into rooms are so armed.

Anonymous about 10 years ago

did djhorkhar ever admit under interrogation by the FBI that they were involved in this MIT shooting? i know he admitted to the bombings, o/c, but i think the only evidence is what the hijacked man thinks that they said-and reports vary on that. was the policeman's gun taken? I have read that they took it, but i have seen no confirmation of any evidence of that. as a matter of fact, the more i think about it, the more i think their may be no real evidence that the tsarnaevs were the MIT shooters. why would they shoot a cop for a gun when they had plenty of guns? the only reason i cd think they would shoot this cop is if he caught them doing something. were they going to plant a bomb at MIT or was the shooting done by someone else entirely???? i would hate to think that the real murderer was sitting out there and laughing about how he got away with it.