Members of a police honor guard lead a column of law enforcement officials into a memorial service for fallen MIT police officer Sean Collier, in Cambridge, Mass., April 24, 2013.
(Photo: Steven Senne, AP)
CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts (USA TODAY) -- Thousands gathered on the MIT campus here Wednesday for a memorial service to honor slain school police officer Sean Collier.
Collier, 27, was shot to death in his patrol car Thursday. Authorities say he was killed by Boston Marathon bombing suspects Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Tamerlan was killed in a shootout with police, while a wounded Dzhokhar was captured Wednesday.
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"Officer Collier didn't just have a job at MIT. He had a life at MIT," said MIT President L. Rafael Reif, among several people scheduled to speak at the three-hour service.
"In just 15 months, he built a life with us that was rich in friendship and shared adventure," Reif said. "MIT is a place the celebrates passionate curiosity, and Sean Collier fit right in."
Collier was well-respected by colleagues and superiors and popular with students. He often went on hikes with the MIT student outing club.
Bruno Faviero, an MIT sophomore covering the memorial service for school student newspaper, said he had seen Collier around campus. Collier "always a friendly smile and a warm hello," says Faviero. who saw Collier last Wednesday at a service to honor the three killed and over 260 wounded in the bombing attack.
"I never would have thought that two days later, he'd be dead,'' Faviero says.
MIT groundskeeper Danny Gilligan said he knew Collier well. "Very nice guy. A teddy bear," said Gilligan, wearing a beige shirt reading "Grounds department mourns with MIT Police."
The school set up seating for 15,000 on Briggs Field, a process than took from 11 p.m. until 3 a .m. Wednesday morning. Many of the seats were being filled by police officers from throughout Massachusetts and other states.
Police snipers lined the roofs of most MIT buildings.
Vice President Joe Biden is scheduled to speak at later at the service.
MIT freshman Jordan Smith will listen keenly to his message.
"I'm interested in what the vice president has to say about this kind of incident and what he might imply towards policy to the U.S. or Massachusetts." says Smith, a biological engineering major.
Meanwhile, Boston's Boylston St., the site of the twin bombing attacks, was reopened to the public.
Contributing: Gary Strauss in McLean, Va.
By Karen Weintraub and Joanna Kao, Special for USA TODAY