Officer who released Tsarnaev photos placed on restricted duty pending investigation

Dylan Stableford
Tsarnaev surrenders.
Tsarnaev surrenders. (Photo by Sgt. Sean Murphy courtesy Boston magazine)

Sgt. Sean Murphy, the Massachusetts state trooper who gave graphic photos documenting the surrender of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to Boston magazine, was placed on restricted desk duty Tuesday pending the outcome of an internal investigation, the Massachusetts State Police announced.

The veteran officer appeared with his lawyer Tuesday at a status hearing in Framingham, Mass.

Federal authorities say that Tsarnaev, who has pleaded not guilty to federal terror charges, and his older brother, Tamerlan, planted two bombs near the finish line of the April 15 marathon, killing three people and injuring more than 200 others. Tamerlan was killed in a shootout with police on April 19; Dzhokhar was later arrested.

“We cannot afford to let pretrial publicity in any way impede this prosecution or any others that we’re involved in,” State Police Col. Timothy Alben told reporters after the hearing.

A Facebook group supporting Murphy was launched Friday in an effort to "save" his job. But Alben said Tuesday that Murphy's termination was "not a realistic option."

Murphy, a tactical photographer for the state police, was temporarily relieved of his duty last week because he was not authorized to release the photos, David Procopio, a spokesman for the state police, told Yahoo News. But Murphy said he felt compelled to leak them in response to Rolling Stone's controversial decision to put Tsarnaev on its cover.

“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 ever 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," Murphy wrote in an email to Boston magazine last week. "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," he added. "It was as real as it gets. This may have played out as a television show, but this was not a television show."