Family Says Officer Died From Injuries From Shootout with Bombers in Watertown

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A Boston Police officer who collapsed and died last year may have died from injuries suffered during the shootout with the Boston Marathon Bombing suspects in Watertown, and his family is seeking benefits related to the incident.

On April 19, 2013 Boston Police Officer Dennis Simmonds reportedly rushed into Watertown, where officers were engaged in a fierce gun battle with the Tsarnaev brothers.

Simmonds was allegedly knocked off his feet and suffered a head injury after one of the brothers threw an explosive that night. A year later, he collapsed and died while working out at the Boston Police Academy Gym. He was 28, and a six year veteran of the BPD. His parents are now seeking a onetime $150,000 line of duty death benefit from the Massachusetts Retirement Board after a single physician panel found that Simmonds death was a result of injuries he sustained in the line of duty.

Simmonds was awarded Boston Police Foundation’s Hero’s Award, and the Schroeder Brothers Memorial Medal of Honor, the highest award bestowed by the Boston Police Department, for his heroics. He also posthumously received a 2014 Top Cop award from President Barak Obama. Simmonds parents Dennis and Roxanne filed the application this past January, and have already gotten support from Boston Mayor Marty Walsh.

“He was a hero and he died in the line of duty,” Walsh said in a statement released by the Mayor’s Office. “He was working the day that he passed away. I was there that night in the hospital the night he passed away and the police officers that came in that night were devastated and he was a great officer and a hero to our city and a great public servant and Boston police officer.”

Simmonds cause of death was listed as a brain aneurysm on his death certificate, though his family declined an autopsy. In a note to the Retirement Board, Simmonds parents said they were asked about an autopsy about a half an hour after arriving at the hospital and learning about their son’s death. They still hadn’t accepted his death.

“We flew in from Tampa, FL were rushed off of the airplane, our state ofmind was in no way appropriate to make that decision,” they wrote. “As when we left on the flight, he was still alive and we were confident that we would see him alive again.

“Dennis was an amazing man,” the letter continued. “He was completely dedicated to protecting and serving the citizens of Boston.”

During the 2014 Top Cop Awards Ceremony in Washington, D.C., Vice President Joe Biden was one of the first to link Simmonds death to his injuries in Watertown.

“Dennis Simmonds,” Biden said, “who put his life on the line last year in a shootout to hunt down the killers, he suffered a severe head injury and ultimately he succumbed.”

While Boston Police declined comment for this story, last year Chief Willie Gross told WCVB Channel 5’s Karen Anderson that he believed Simmonds death may have been related to his injuries.

“He was thrown from his feet, knocked to the ground, and they kept fighting protecting each other,” Gross said. “We definitely believe that could have contributed and may have contributed to this untimely death.

The single physician medical panel that reviewed Simmonds records noted that Simmonds encounter in Watertown played a factor, their report also highlighted several other injuries he sustained while on the job.

In July 2010, Simmonds was involved in a car accident and had to be treated at the emergency room at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, according to the report. While he was given medication and released, he required emergency surgery several months later. The report indicated that the surgery was a result of the motor vehicle accident.

Doctors also noted that Simmonds developed another medical issue in May, 2011, but the specific condition was redacted from the report.

In August 2012, the back passenger window vent of Simmonds police cruiser was penetrated by an unknown object, according to the report. A Sergeant was on the scene, though it is unclear how badly Simmonds was injured due to redactions in the report.

Then in 2013, Simmonds encountered the Tsarnaev brothers in Watertown. The report states that during the gun fight, Simmonds dove to the ground and was in a cramped position for a long period of time. After the scene was cleared, Simmonds was taken to St. Elizabeth’s hospital. On the way he asked the driver to slow down because the speed and bumpiness of the ride caused him discomfort. The specific discomfort he experienced is redacted.

He was treated and later released from St. Elizabeth’s Hospital. The Boston Police relieved him of duty for a period of time, according to Simmonds incident report, that was filed weeks after the shootout.

He made several follow-up appointments with doctors at Harvard Vanguard. The report suggests that doctors may have discovered lingering effects of his injuries, but most of that is redacted.

By April 10, 2014 Simmonds had returned to active duty. He was working out at the Boston Police Academy gym when he suddenly collapsed. He was taken to Boston Medical Center where he was pronounced dead, according to the report.

The single physician panel found that Simmonds death was a “natural and proximate result of an injury he sustained during the course of his employment,” according to the report.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was found guilty and sentenced to death for his role in the Boston Marathon Bombings, but he has not been charged with Simmonds injuries or his death. Simmonds name was added to the National Law Enforcement Memorial in Washington, D.C.

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