The Massachusetts State Police photographer who leaked photos of a bloody, defeated Dzhokhar Tsarnaev during his capture is getting public support as he faces potential punishment from his bosses.
A “Save Sgt. Sean Murphy” group on Facebook had more than 34,000 “likes” on Sunday afternoon — three days after Murphy leaked the stark photos to Boston Magazine in response to Rolling Stone magazine’s latest cover, which features the Boston Marathon bombing suspect.
Murphy, a tactical photographer, was suspended after the leak and faces a disciplinary hearing as soon as this week.
“This petition is to save Trooper Sean Murphy his job,” the Facebook group’s “About” section says. “He did what I think most of us would have liked to do or would have done had we had the same resources.” It is unclear who started the group.
The Rolling Stone controversy has continued to provoke strong feelings in Boston and beyond, with Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., weighing in against the cover Sunday. Critics accused the magazine of giving Tsarnaev, 19, rock-star treatment while not paying homage to the blasts’ victims.
“It’s stupid,” McCain said in a CNN appearance. “I thought it was glorifying an individual that represents a great threat to innocent lives and was responsible for the taking of innocent lives.”
Others responded that The New York Times ran the same Tsarnaev photo on its front page without receiving the same criticism.
The actual Rolling Stone story on Tsarnaev by Janet Reitman has been praised as solid examination of Tsarnaev’s life as a wayward American college student who revealed only hints that he held radical views.
The debate was further complicated Thursday when Boston Magazine published Murphy’s photos, along with a comment from Murphy.
Murphy, who said he knew firsthand that victims’ families were disturbed by the magazine’s cover, wrote: “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.”
The release of the official photos was unauthorized, and some experts have expressed concern that their publication could interfere with the pending federal criminal case against Tsarnaev.
On the Facebook group, meanwhile, users rallied behind Murphy.
“As a military veteran I understand Sgt. Murphy broke the rules, however; I’m glad he did it!” one user wrote. “It is my opinion that he hit the nail on the head with his views on the Rolling Stone cover of that coward.”
Distributed by MCT Information Services