Rolling Stone's decision to put accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on its upcoming cover touched off a firestorm of controversy earlier this week among readers, retailers and purveyors of good taste, who say the magazine is elevating the 19-year-old from terrorist to rock star.
In response, Boston magazine published a series of new, haunting images of Tsarnaev's capture on its website on Thursday. The images, taken by Massachusetts State Police Sgt. Sean Murphy, ran under the title "The Real Face of Terror."
“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," Murphy, a tactical photographer with the state police, wrote in an email to Boston magazine. "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.
The outrage over the Rolling Stone cover has been widespread, particularly in the city of Boston, where Tsarnaev is accused of planting one of the twin bombs that killed three people and wounded more than 200 others near the race's finish line.
On Wednesday, several retail chains including CVS, Walgreens, Stop & Shop and Tedeschi's announced they would not carry the issue—due on newsstands Friday—in their stores.
Rolling Stone defended its decision to put Tsarnaev on the cover:
Our hearts go out to the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing, and our thoughts are always with them and their families. The cover story we are publishing this week falls within the traditions of journalism and Rolling Stone’s long-standing commitment to serious and thoughtful coverage of the most important political and cultural issues of our day. The fact that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is young, and in the same age group as many of our readers, makes it all the more important for us to examine the complexities of this issue and gain a more complete understanding of how a tragedy like this happens.
The Massachusetts State Police did not return a phone message or email seeking comment. But it appears Murphy's disclosure of the photos came with a price. According to Boston magazine editor John Wolfson, the veteran officer has been temporarily relieved of duty, with a hearing scheduled for next week.