World & Nation

Rolling Stone cover leads to release of new photos of Tsarnaev arrest

This post has been updated.

Sgt. Sean Murphy was incensed by what he saw as the glamorization of the suspected Boston Marathon bomber on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine.   

So the Massachusetts State Police officer decided to take action. Murphy, a tactical photographer, made public for the first time a series of behind-the-scenes photos documenting the night of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s capture in Watertown, Mass.  

The images, published Thursday by Boston Magazine, vividly show details of the capture, from the movements of police to Tsarnaev’s bloodied condition.


The Boston Marathon attack

“Murphy wants the world to know that the Tsarnaev in the photos he took that night — defeated and barely alive, with the red dots of sniper rifles lighting up his forehead — is the real face of terrorism, not the handsome, confident young man shown on the magazine cover,” wrote John Wolfson, the editor-in-chief of Boston Magazine.

In one photo, a trooper kneels with a printout of the suspect’s mug shot tucked under his arm. In another, a window frames the covered boat that served as Tsarnaev’s hiding place, an orange sherbert-colored sky in the backdrop.  

Another shows Tsarnaev, 19, emerging from the boat with a police laser trained on his forehead. He is raising a bloodied right hand. 


“I hope that the people who see these images will know that this was real. It was as real as it gets,” Murphy wrote in a posting on the magazine’s website. “This may have played out as a television show, but this was not a television show.”

[Updated 7:45 p.m., July 18: A Massachusetts State Police spokesman said in a statement that the release of the photographs was unauthorized. Boston Magazine reported that Murphy had been relieved of duty hours after the photos were published. State police did not comment on any personnel action involving Murphy.]

The Aug. 1 issue of Rolling Stone, featuring a softly-lighted “selfie” of Tsarnaev on the cover, sparked a national uproar. Much of the criticism revolved around what has been described as the rock-star treatment of a suspected terrorist, a view Murphy took as well.  

According to the magazine, Murphy has photographed the funerals of officers killed in the line of duty, and acts as a liaison to the families of fallen officers. 

“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 could also be an incentive to those who may be unstable to do something to get their face on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine,” Murphy wrote.

A more complete collection of the photos will appear in the September issue of Boston Magazine. 


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