Officer who released photos of bloodied Boston Marathon bomber suspect relieved of duty

Updated 7/19/2013, 11:55 a.m.

The Massachusetts state police photographer who released hundreds of photos of the manhunt and capture of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to Boston magazine has been relieved of duty as a result of his actions, a state police spokesman said.

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Sgt. Sean Murphy, acting without support from the Boston Police department, released stunning images of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's capture.

Sgt. Sean Murphy, acting without support from the Boston Police department, released stunning images of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's capture.

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Sgt. Sean Murphy will be relieved of duty for one day, probably Monday, pending an internal investigation, said David Procopio, the spokesman. Murphy will also be subject to a hearing next week  to determine his status during the investigation, Procopio said.

The decision came just a few hours after Murphy, a 25-year veteran of the force, gave the magazine his behind-the-scenes photos, which were published Thursday. Murphy turned over his gun, badge, ammunition, handcuffs, baton, bulletproof vest, cameras, police ID, firearms license, pepper spray, cellphone and computer to two state officers who came to his home Thursday night, Boston magazine reported. He was ordered not to speak to the media about Tsarnaev’s capture, according to the magazine.

Murphy has said that he released the photos to Boston magazine because he was upset by an upcoming Rolling Stone cover that features a photograph Tsarnaev took of himself looking tousled, relaxed and friendly.

The Rolling Stone photo has sparked widespread outrage, and several chain stores said they wouldn’t sell the issue in sympathy with those who deemed it inappropriate.

Murphy was apparently the only police photographer behind the lines during the hunt for Tsarnaev and his brother, Tamerlan, who was killed in a shootout with police. Boston magazine said Murphy 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.

He brought the photos to the magazine “because he was outraged” by the Rolling Stone cover and because he appreciated Boston magazine’s coverage of the aftermath of the bombings, Boston magazine Editor John Wolfson said in an interview “He’s been sitting on them for months. I don’t think he ever intended to release them at all.”

In a statement to Boston magazine published Thursday, Murphy 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 ever 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. 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.”

Boston magazine said Murphy was speaking strictly for himself and not as a police representative.

Wolfson said the magazine didn’t pay for the photos, and Murphy didn’t ask for compensation. He said Murphy is aware that he could face disciplinary action from the state for releasing the photos but felt that it was more important “to help people understand that this was a real event and not a TV program.”

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

“These were real people, with real lives, with real families,” he told the magazine. “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.”

Boston magazine said Murphy also acts as a liaison to the families of officers who have died in the line of duty.

Rolling Stone’s depiction of Tsarnaev is the latest in a long string of magazine covers that have sparked comment and outrage, from Vanity Fair’s image of a naked and pregnant Demi Moore in 1991 to Time’s photograph of a young mother breastfeeding her 4-year-old son last year.

Rolling Stone issued a statement saying, “Our hearts go out to the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing. . . . The cover story we are publishing this week falls within the traditions of journalism and Rolling Stone’s long-standing commitment to serious and thoughtful coverage of the most important political and cultural issues of our day. The fact that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is young, and in the same age group as many of our readers, makes it all the more important for us to examine the complexities of this issue and gain a more complete understanding of how a tragedy like this happens.”

 
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