Outrage over Rolling Stone cover triggers release of new photos of alleged Boston bomber

July 18, 2013

Is this what a terrorist really looks like?

A day after Rolling Stone magazine set off a wildfire of reaction with a glamorous-looking cover photo of suspected Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, a Massachusetts police photographer has offered another image. And another point of view.

In one of Sgt. Sean Murphy’s photos, a dazed and bloodied Tsarnaev emerges in surrender from the parked boat in which he hid from a police dragnet days after the bombing in April. Tsarnaev is disheveled in the photo; his face and upraised hand are bloodied, as is the hull of the boat. A police marksman’s red laser dot lights up Tsarnaev’s forehead.

Murphy said he released the photo and several others to Boston magazine, which published it online Thursday, because he was upset by the Rolling Stone cover, which featured a photo Tsarnaev took of himself looking tousled and relaxed and friendly.

The Rolling Stone photo has sparked widespread outrage, and several chain stores said they wouldn’t sell the issue.

Murphy was apparently the only police photographer behind the lines during the hunt for the Tsanaev brothers. Boston magazine said he photographed “high-level conferences, the mobilization of law enforcement, and the dramatic capture.” His photos have never been made public until now, the magazine said.

“As a professional law-enforcement officer of 25 years, I believe that the image that was portrayed by Rolling Stone magazine was an insult to any person who has every worn a uniform of any color or any police organization or military branch, and the family members who have ever lost a loved one serving in the line of duty,” Murphy told Boston magazine. “The truth is that glamorizing the face of terror is not just insulting to the family members of those killed in the line of duty, it also could be an incentive to those who may be unstable to do something to get their face on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine.

The magazine said Murphy, a tactical photographer with the Massachusetts State Police, was speaking strictly for himself and not as a police representative.

“I hope that the people who see these images will know that this was real. It was as real as it gets. This may have played out as a television show, but this was not a television show.”

Murphy noted that one police officer, Sean Collier, was killed during the manhunt for Tsarnaev and his brother, Tamerlan, and a second, Dick Donohue, was seriously injured.

“These were real people, with real lives, with real families,” he said. “And to have this cover dropped into Boston was hurtful to their memories and their families. I know from first-hand conversations that this Rolling Stone cover has kept many of them up—again. It’s irritated the wounds that will never heal—again. There is nothing glamorous in bringing more pain to a grieving family.”

Added Murphy, “What Rolling Stone did was wrong. This guy is evil. This is the real Boston bomber. Not someone fluffed and buffed for the cover of Rolling Stone magazine.”

The magazine said Murphy also acts a liaison to the families of officers who’ve died in the line of duty.

Paul Farhi is The Washington Post's media reporter.
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Cara Kelly | July 18, 2013