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.