WATERTOWN, Mass. - Sean Collier, the MIT police officer killed in a late-night confrontation with the Boston Marathon bombing suspects, did more than protect students at the prestigious university. He danced the Lindy Hop with them, went hiking and even yodeled with them in New Hampshire's White Mountains.
Collier, 26, was making a mark as a dedicated police officer who connected with students after only 15 months on the job, MIT Police Chief John DiFava said.
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"Sean was one of these guys who really looked at police work as a calling," DiFava said in a statement Friday. "He was born to be a police officer."
"In a very short period of time, it was remarkable how engaged he was with students," DiFava said.
A 2009 criminal justice graduate of Salem State University who lived in Somerville, Collier had previously worked for five years in the IT department of the Somerville Police Department. He was No. 1 on the civil service list for the next opening as a police officer, Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone said Friday.
"He was a fantastic employee, a dedicated public servant," Curtatone said. "This kid was talented."
Collier, who was not married, became an MIT police officer in January 2012 but kept in touch with the Somerville department, helping to maintain its website, Curtatone said.
Outside Collier's home , officers said they cordoned off the street with yellow police tape so that his friends, family and neighbors could grieve in peace.
A handful of Somerville Police Department officers converged outside the white, three-story house, at times embracing, as a drizzle fell.
One female officer said she was too upset to talk about her fallen former colleague. "It's traumatic,"she said. "He worked with us."
"We are heartbroken by the loss of our wonderful and caring son and brother, Sean Collier," his family said in a statement published by The Boston Globe. "Our only solace is that Sean died bravely doing what he committed his life to -- serving and protecting others."
At MIT, outside of his regular duties Collier took part in the MIT Outing Club, an outdoor adventure group. He amazed some members with his rapid embrace of winter hiking in the White Mountains -- home to some of the nation's most brutal weather.
"The thing that impressed me about Sean was how enthusiastically he took the plunge into winter hiking, how quickly he mastered it, and how rapidly he made friends," MIT graduate student Matthew Gilbertson said.
MIT senior Michele Pratusevich said one hike included yodeling, and Collier was one of the first to try.
"He was eager to strut his plaid flannel, yodel off the sides of a mountain, enjoy eating his chocolate and pepperoni, and be happy and cheerful even with our exceedingly slow pace," she said.
On campus, Collier often stopped by MIT's student center while on his shift -- and sometimes danced the Lindy Hop, said Maddie Hickman, a 2011 MIT graduate.
"At first, some of the dancers were nervous at the 'police presence' in the room, but Sean made friends quickly," she said.
Another police officer was severely wounded during the confrontation. Richard H. Donohue, Jr., 33, of Woburn, underwent surgery Friday at Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick said. The hospital said Donohue was in critical but stable condition late Friday afternoon.
Donohue is a three-year veteran of the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority.