The Real Face of Terror: Behind the Scenes Photos of the Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Manhunt
The Rolling Stone cover featuring the suspected Boston Marathon bomber, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has, of course, set off a firestorm of controversy across the country. Critics believe that the cover glamorizes Tsarnaev, depicting him as a kind of rock ‘n roll outlaw rather than a terrorist who has been charged with killing four people and seriously wounding hundreds of others.
Sgt. Sean Murphy, a tactical photographer with the Massachusetts State Police who has photographed the funerals of many officers killed in the line of duty, is furious with the magazine. Murphy, who also acts a liaison to the families of fallen officers, is so angered by the cover—which he says is both dangerous and insulting to the victims of the bombings—that he feels the need to counter the message that it conveys.
We all remember the day of the manhunt, when Governor Patrick and law enforcement officials decided, in essence, to shut Boston down. Throughout it all, Murphy, alone in his assignment behind police lines, was capturing images of the day’s events—the high-level conferences, the mobilization of law enforcement, and the dramatic capture. Because the whole thing was televised live, everyone knows that the day ended with a wounded Tsarnaev being taken into custody. What few people have seen, because Murphy’s photos from that day have never been made public before, is the condition Tsarnaev was in at the time of his capture—and, indeed, exactly how he was captured. 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. Following are a number of his photos from that day. A more complete collection will appear in our September issue.
Here, in his own words, Murphy shares his thoughts on the Rolling Stone cover. He stresses that he is speaking strictly for himself and not as a representative of the Massachusetts State Police:
“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. 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.
“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. Officer Dick Donohue almost gave his life. Officer Sean Collier did give his life. These were real people, with real lives, with real families. 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.
“Photography is very simple, it’s very basic. It brings us back to the cave. An image like this on the cover of Rolling Stone, we see it instantly as being wrong. 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.”