A state police photographer who released photos of the bloodied Boston Marathon bombing suspect during his capture was placed on restricted duty Tuesday.
Sgt. Sean Murphy said he leaked the photos of what he called “the face of terror” to Boston magazine last week to counter a glamorized image of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine.
Three of Murphy’s 14 photos show a battered and blood-streaked Tsarnaev emerging from a boat in a backyard, the red dot of a sniper’s laser sight trained on his head.
Murphy wasn’t authorized to release the photos. He already served a one-day, unpaid suspension and has received another five-day unpaid suspension. Following a status hearing at state police headquarters Tuesday, Murphy was placed on desk duty, where he won’t have contact with the public, until an internal investigation is complete.
Col. Timothy Alben, the commander of the state police, said more discipline is conceivable, but he ruled out the possibility that Murphy would be fired.
“I don’t see Sgt. Murphy being terminated for this particular set of circumstances,” he said.
After the hearing, Murphy declined to comment, except to say, “Life is good.”
Murphy’s 19-year-old son, Connor Murphy, said he couldn’t be more proud of his father, praising him as a man of integrity and noting his father never tried to hide what he had done.
“If I could be one quarter of a man that he is now, I’ll be more than happy with my life,” he said.
Alben said the rules Murphy is accused of violating aim to ensure police don’t leak information that could jeopardize investigations. But he added that discipline against Murphy in this case “doesn’t mean we have any less empathy or concern or sympathy for people or families that lost loved ones or who were severely injured throughout that incident.”
Alben also indicated strong support for Murphy within his agency, noting Murphy had a previously unblemished disciplinary record. He said Murphy was a conscientious man whom he believes was motivated to release the photos based on his own personal convictions.
“I don’t think that should ever be misconstrued or misunderstood that this organization, this Massachusetts State Police, is not made of 2,100 people who might share similar feelings about that, including this colonel,” he said,
The U.S. attorney’s office called the release of the photos “completely unacceptable,” and some attorneys said the images and Murphy’s comments could be used to argue government bias against Tsarnaev.
Others said it was important to show the real Tsarnaev after the flattering cover shot, which showed a brooding Tsarnaev in a pose that recalled the magazine’s treatment of Jim Morrison.
Murphy has said in a statement to Boston magazine that the cover was an insult to police, military members and the families of anyone killed in the line of duty.
“This guy is evil,” Murphy said. “This is the real Boston bomber. Not someone fluffed and buffed for the cover of Rolling Stone magazine.”
The cover photo was one Tsarnaev posted online himself and the magazine’s accompanying headline described him as a “monster.” Rolling Stone said the story was part of its “long-standing commitment to serious and thoughtful coverage of the most important political and cultural issues of our day.”
Tsarnaev, 20, has pleaded not guilty in connection with the April 15 bombing that killed three and injured or maimed 260. He’s also accused of killing a Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer while on the run three days later. Tsarnaev escaped from police following a shootout in the Boston suburb of Watertown that day, during which he ran over his brother and alleged co-conspirator, Tamerlan Tsarnaev. His brother died of injuries suffered during the confrontation.