May 14, 2015 / 7:52 PM / 4 years ago

Massachusetts board mulls whether police officer's death tied to Boston bomber

BOSTON (Reuters) - A Massachusetts retirement board will decide this month if a Boston police officer died from injuries sustained during a shootout with convicted Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev four days after the bombing, officials said on Thursday.

Dennis Simmonds, 28, collapsed and died while working out at the police academy on April 10, 2014, about a year after Tsarnaev and his older brother engaged in a gunfight with police in Watertown, Massachusetts, as they tried to flee the area. Simmonds’ family has said his death was a direct result of head wounds sustained in the gunfight.

An application for $150,000 in benefits for police officers killed in the line of duty was “submitted on behalf of a police officer potentially related to the Boston Marathon attack of 2013,” was initially filed in January, Nick Favorito, executive director of the Massachusetts State Board of Retirement, said in a statement.

The state retirement board will review the panel’s report before voting on the benefits application at its next meeting on May 28, said Matthew Sheaff, a spokesman for the state treasurer’s office.

The Boston Police Department declined to comment when called for comment.

Simmonds was awarded the Boston Police Department’s highest honor for his bravery during the Watertown gunfight, when Tsarnaev and his 26-year-old brother Tamerlan exchanged gunfire with police and threw homemade bombs at them. Tamerlan died after the gunfight, which ended when Dzhokhar fled in a stolen car, running his brother over in the process.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said in a statement that he believed Simmonds deserved the payment.

If Simmonds’ death was caused by the Watertown shootout, he would be the fifth victim of Tsarnaev, who has already been convicted in federal court in Boston of bombing the marathon on April 15, 2013, killing three people and wounding 264 others, as well as of murdering Massachusetts Institute of Technology policeman Sean Collier.

The federal jury that convicted Tsarnaev, 21, is deliberating whether to sentence him to death or to life in prison without possibility of release.

Editing by Scott Malone and Jonathan Oatis

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