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The Boston Globe

Metro

KEVIN CULLEN

DJ Simmonds made his presence felt

A Boston police officer escorted the hearse carrying the body of Officer DJ Simmonds after his funeral Thursday at Randolph’s First Baptist Church.

Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

A Boston police officer escorted the hearse carrying the body of Officer DJ Simmonds after his funeral Thursday at Randolph’s First Baptist Church.

When he was a little boy, DJ Simmonds was at church in Randolph one day when the preacher, the Rev. Kirk Jones, took him aside and asked him a question.

“Dennis,” Jones asked, “what do you want to be?”

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DJ didn’t have to think about it. He answered immediately.

“Mr. Jones,” he said, “I want to be a police officer.”

DJ Simmonds grew up and, true to himself, became a Boston police officer. And Jones was standing there Thursday afternoon, remembering their conversation all those years ago, staring at DJ’s casket at the foot of the altar at First Baptist Church in Randolph.

DJ Simmonds’ funeral took place in the church where he revealed his life plan, one year after he went out one night and, with his comrades in the Boston Police Department’s gang unit, did something that defies every instinct for self-preservation. As Thursday turned into Friday a year ago, DJ Simmonds ran towards gunfire. He ran into the path of a bomb, thrown at him by the degenerates who caused the explosions at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.

He was out of work for a month, recovering from his wounds, and no one can tell me that didn’t have something to do with DJ collapsing last week at the police academy in Hyde Park, not far from his new house.

Nicole Simmonds wore a bright red dress to her big brother’s funeral.

“Red was DJ’s favorite color,” she said.

If Nicole’s dress was loud, DJ wasn’t.

“DJ,” his father, Dennis Simmonds Sr., said, “was like a lamb until it was time to turn into a lion.”

You have to be a lion to work in the gang unit. But DJ loved it. He loved it because he knew every gun he took off the street mattered. And yet DJ and his partner, Jean Jean-Louis, and all their brothers and sisters in the gang unit, knew they can’t lock up everybody.

DJ could be hard when he had to be, but he also embraced the concept that every kid he encountered on the street was a potential save.

He locked up bad kids, and didn’t regret it a bit, but he also tried to steer kids off the street, into the gym, to pump iron instead of lead. He steered kids toward InnerCity Weightlifting, and there are kids doing that program today instead of doing time, all because of DJ.

DJ knew that not everybody was as lucky as him to grow up in a house where his parents provided the stability, the discipline, and the tough love.

“Real mighty men don’t have to roar to make their presence known,” Jones said.

DJ Simmonds was a presence, a mighty man.

There was a poignant symmetry in DJ Simmonds being buried almost exactly a year after a young cop named Sean Collier was shot dead in Cambridge by the same people who tried to kill DJ a few hours later.

Both Sean and DJ were born to be cops. Their parents and their siblings knew they were going to be police officers from the time they were little boys.

DJ and Sean were so similar, the same age, the same sense of duty and honor. One was white, one was black, and both bled blue.

They lived for their families and they died for strangers.

“Dennis was meant to be a cop,” his boss, Sergeant Dennis Cogavin, said. “He came back from his injury more eager. He’d fire Jean up.”

Jean Jean-Louis, a great cop, sat up front with DJ’s parents and sister and smiled at the memory. Jean and DJ were like Martin Lawrence and Will Smith in “Bad Boys.” And DJ was definitely the Will Smith character.

Willie Gross, DJ’s chief, put it very well when he said DJ Simmonds was a great cop but a better person.

DJ wanted to be a cop to make a difference.

And in just 28 years on this earth, he did.

Kevin Cullen is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at cullen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeCullen.

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