FAQ: Dzokhar Tsarnaev Manhunt Photos

We’ve gotten a lot of questions since publishing the Dzokhar Tsarnaev manhunt photos; here are some answers.

Yesterday, we published a series of photos from the manhunt for and capture of alleged marathon bomber, Dzokhar Tsarnaev. Since then, we’ve received many questions about how all this happened. For the sake of clarity and transparency, here are some answers to the most frequent questions we’ve received:

Q: So, how did all this happen?

A: Yesterday morning, Massachusetts State Police Sergeant Sean Murphy arrived unannounced at our office and immediately began telling us how distraught he was about the Rolling Stone cover featuring Dzokhar Tsarnaev. He told us that, in his role as a state police officer, he’s dealt firsthand with many of the victims of the attack and believed that the cover had unnecessarily opened old wounds for some of them. As he put it to us, he felt the magazine had portrayed a cop-killer as a rock star.

In his position as tactical photographer for the state police, Murphy, a 25-year veteran of the force, determined that he was in a position to provide a competing narrative. During the course of the manhunt for Tsarnaev, he’d taken hundreds of pictures, which he believed portrayed the alleged bomber in a more appropriate light. He wanted to see them published immediately.

Q: Did Murphy ask for any compensation?

A: We did not pay Murphy for the photos, nor did he ask for any money. There was no compensation, whatsoever.

Q: How did you choose which photos to publish?

A: Our goal was to choose photos that reflected the arc of what Murphy had captured during the course of that fateful day. Our September issue will contain additional photos, presented as a photo essay. (Our August issue—the next to hit newsstands—was already closed and sent to the printers. The September issue is our next available opportunity to publish the photos.)

Q: State Police said in statement last night that the release was not authorized. So how can you publish them?

A: We lawfully received the photographs from Murphy and, under the First Amendment, we do not need the government’s permission to publish them. These photos depict a historic day in Boston—for obvious reasons, we believe they have significant news value.

Q: Aren’t you impeding a criminal investigation? Could these photos be considered evidence?

A: Tsarnaev has been apprehended. We’re not aware of anything in these photos that reveals evidence pertaining to any ongoing criminal investigation.

Q: Some have said the photos portray Tsarnaev as a martyr, and could engender sympathy for him.

A: We certainly disagree with that perspective, but people will see what they want to see in these photos. Bottom line: This is news, this is how it happened.

Q: What is going to happen to Sean Murphy now?

A: The state police have collected his badge and gun and suspended him from duty. He has not been fired and state police say his status with force will be reviewed next week.

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  • Adria

    Officer Murphy should be commended for his bravery both during the manhunt and in bringing these photos to the public. In my opinion his actions are exactly what those of a police officer should be. I.E. uncovering the truth about a dangerous individual, preserving that truth for the future, and being fully open and honest with the public about what is happening in their community and about the related process of justice. As a Boston area resident who fully experienced those terrifying days, I too was offended by the Rolling Stone cover. I have a deep gratitude for Officer Muphy and hope that the state police will recognize the goodness and justness of his actions.

  • Amy

    Shame on the State Police if they even think about firing Murphy. He did the honorable thing by releasing those photos and whether or not he works for the State Police, he’s the rightful owner of said photos.

  • sears2012

    State and federal governments are always trying to make sure THEY are the ones pulling the strings, so how DARE local people think for themselves.

  • manny

    I can understand some need for disciplinary action for insubordination but I still think he did the right thing in light of the tasteless rolling stones cover. Doing the right thing in spite of the negative posed to oneself is what epitomizes a police officer.

    • Mal Gleizle

      He may have done the right thing emotionally out of righteous indignation for all our fellow Americans who serve our country locally, nationally and globally – but I am not sure legally he did the responsible (right) thing since he does not own these photographs (least I do not believe he owns them as he took them while actively at work in his role of being a police photog). Correct me if I am wrong or shed additional light, but please do it nicely because I am not looking for verbal sparring or those that think it is ok to demean and degrade in the anonymity of the cyber world. My other thought is that Sgt. Murphy was very aware of the potential employment fallout from his choice to share these photos – I don’t believe he was/is looking for the public to rally around him as much as he wholeheartedly believed in what he was doing to offset Rolling Stones’ choice – his words were passionate and succinct – this was not a ‘knee-jerk reaction’ on his part. I believe he chose his personal value and the value of all his brothers and sisters that serve our country next to him above the value of his employment – and, should this truly be the case, for that I respect him TREMENDOUSLY.

  • pullmyfunnybone

    Please feel free to post any comments of support re:Sgt Murphy to https://www.facebook.com/SupportMassachusettsStatePoliceSgtSeanMurphy

  • Guest

    Just a cheap stunt to sell magazines in a failing industry, in bad taste obviously

  • Kate

    The photos were not his property to give away. They were taken in the course of his employment by the Mass Sate Police for law enforcement purposes. Boston magazine is publishing stolen goods.

  • Joe

    The role of Police is to investigate and prosecute crime.

    Engaging in trying to influence public opinion on questions of guilt, innocence or justice is not the role of police.

    This is the type of activity we have come to expect in places like Putin or Stalin’s Russia.

    The world is watching, failure of the authorities to take the right and appropriate action against this officer will simply confirm in peoples minds around the globe that justice, the rule of law and democracy are dispensable in America too.