NAACP, Police Association Blast ‘Patriots Day’ Movie for Failing to Recognize Slain Black Officer

Officer Dennis “D.J.” Simmonds and “Patriots Day” movie poster (Boston Police Department/CBS Films/Lionsgate)

A movie about the 2013 Boston marathon bombing has been under fire by the NAACP and the Massachusetts Association of Minority Law Enforcement Officers for not acknowledging a Black policeman killed as a result of the terrorist act.

The NAACP and MAMLEO took issue with “Patriots Day,” which focuses on the aftermath of the attack four years ago as authorities search for the suspects. The two organizations believe the movie ignored nonwhite officers and criticized the movie’s failure to mention Dennis “D.J.” Simmonds, according to the Boston Herald.

On April 19, 2013, the 28-year-old was injured when a pipe bomb belonging to Tamerlan Tsarnaev exploded near the cop’s head in the midst of a shootout. Months later, Simmonds died of an aneurysm attributed to the detonation. The late officer’s family said “Patriots Day” did not include this information in the movie.

“Their failure to even acknowledge the death of Officer Simmonds in the closing reel of the film or acknowledge in a meaningful way the roles that Boston police officers of color played in the death and capture of the bombers not only paints a distorted image of what truly happened that day, but taints our history,” NAACP and MAMLEO said in a joint statement Friday, Jan. 13. “On this, we cannot be silent.”

“Patriots Day” displayed a dedication “to all those injured, to the first responders and medical professionals, and to all members of law enforcement who demonstrated courage, compassion and dedication throughout the tragic events of April 2013,” according to the Associated Press.

The movie doesn’t showcase any real-life members of the Boston Police Department. Mark Wahlberg’s character of Sgt. Tommy Saunders is a composite of several officers who responded to the bombing. In December, a spokesperson for “Patriots Day” said outlining a historical event “limits the number of individual stories you are able to tell” in a two-hour film.

The NAACP and MAMLEO statement said they still believe there are “opportunities for the producers and studio to acknowledge the life and sacrifice of Officer Simmonds.” Others share the same sentiments and believe Wahlberg should publicly declare Simmonds’ civic contribution. A petition aimed at the star and the movie’s producers is just 31 signatures shy of reaching its goal of 2,500.

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