Courtesy Boston Magazine
A sniper trains his beam on Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Photo by Sean Murphy.
A Massachusetts State Police officer released photos of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev that depicted him bloodied and lit up by sniper rifle sights in the aftermath of a massive manhunt, saying he wanted to show "the real Boston bomber.”
The release of the photos came amid uproar about a Rolling Stone magazine cover story image that some said glamorized the accused killer.
Tactical photographer Sgt. Sean Murphy said the hundreds of images of the manhunt for Tsarnaev in April that he gave to Boston Magazine show someone not “fluffed and buffed for the cover of Rolling Stone magazine.”
The photographs released to Boston Magazine by Murphy show some of the hundreds of heavily armed police officers who scoured Watertown, Mass., in the search for Tsarnaev after his older brother Tamerlan was killed in a shootout with police. In some of the more than one dozen photographs published by the magazine, law enforcement officers dressed in camouflage gear and helmets surround the white boat in a backyard where Tsarnaev was ultimately found injured but alive.
In other photographs, the bleeding accused bomber slumps out of the tarp-covered boat with a laser beam from an officer’s sniper rifle trained on his forehead.
Murphy said in a statement to Boston Magazine that he released the photographs after being outraged by a photo of Tsarnaev printed to accompany a Rolling Stone cover story earlier this week, calling the image “an insult.”
“An image like this on the cover of Rolling Stone, we see it instantly as being wrong,” Murphy said in the statement published on Boston Magazine’s website. “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.”
Three people were killed, including an 8-year-old boy, and more than 200 injured when blasts from two homemade bombs rocked the finish line of the Boston marathon on April 15. Tsarnaev appeared for an eight-minute hearing in federal court on July 11, where he pleaded not guilty to a 30-count indictment.
The court appearance was attended by scores of bombing survivors and their families. More than a dozen officers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology police force stood outside the courthouse in apparent homage to Officer Sean Collier, who died in a shooting in the course of the manhunt.
Family members of the survivors said the defendant appeared to smirk and appear indifferent to the court proceedings, speaking only to enter his plea with an accent reflecting his Chechen background.
The editor-in-chief of Boston Magazine wrote in a post later on the publication’s website on Thursday that Murphy had been relieved of duty, but not fired. His status of duty was to reviewed next week, editor John Wolfson wrote.
Murphy, who described himself as a 25-year veteran of law enforcement, was relieved of his gun, badge, cameras, and police identification, according to Wolfson’s post. He was also reportedly ordered not to have any further communication with the press.
NBC News was not able to immediately verify the details of the report. In a statement on Thursday, a spokesman for the state police said that the release of the photos was not authorized.
“Today’s dissemination to Boston Magazine of photographs of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and police activity related to his capture was not authorized by the Massachusetts State Police,” Procopio said in the statement. “The department will not release the photographs to media outlets.”
“The Massachusetts State Police will conduct an internal investigation of the department photographer’s release of the photographs,” Procopio said.
A disciplinary hearing for Murphy will possibly take place sometime next week, according to Procopio.
A spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz called the release of the photos “completely unacceptable,” according to the Boston Herald.
“We have spoken with the Massachusetts State Police, who have assured us that the release of the photos was unauthorized and that they are taking action internally in response,” the spokeswoman said.
The editors of Rolling Stone have defended the cover photo of Tsarnaev, which was headlined “The Bomber” and included a tagline that called the man “a monster.” Stores including CVS and Tadeschi Foods have announced that they will not sell the issue on their newsstands.
“Our hearts go out to the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing, and our thoughts are always with them and their families,” Rolling Stones’ editors said in a statement. “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.”
But for many in Boston, Murphy said in his statement after releasing the photographs, the wounds from the 19-year-old Tsarnaev’s alleged actions are still raw.
“These were real people, with real lives, with real families,” Murphy said. “I know from first-hand conversations that this Rolling Stone cover has kept many of them up – again. It’s irritated wounds that will never heal – again. There is nothing glamorous in bringing more pain to a grieving family.”
First published July 18 2013, 7:28 PM