After a week of chaos, the suspect in the deadly Boston Marathon bombings emerged from his hiding spot bloodied and seemingly exhausted — the red dot of a sniper’s rifle lighting his forehead. Photos of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev released by a state police officer give a long-awaited glimpse into the end of an episode that kept the city and its suburbs on edge.
The images, the first of Tsarnaev from that night in April, were released to Boston Magazine on Thursday by a state police photographer angry about a Rolling Stone cover shot of Tsarnaev and hoping to counter what he said was the music magazine’s glamorization of the terror suspect.
The release was unauthorized, and Sgt. Sean Murphy faces an internal investigation and possible suspension.
Murphy’s 14 photos show the 19-year-old Tsarnaev emerging from his hiding spot in a drydocked boat in Watertown, just west of Boston, his right hand up in surrender in one, his head buried in his arms in another. In every picture of Tsarnaev, the red dot of a sniper’s rifle sight is trained on his head.
To Watertown resident Anna Lanzo, the photos show a teen, as weary as he appears, still capable of standing, running and doing the damage she worried he’d do when she was trapped in her house three months ago while her neighborhood was on lockdown.
“I was petrified,” said Lanzo, 70, who recalled police swarming her yard, searching under her car and motioning her to get back whenever she approached her windows while they searched for Tsarnaev.
Watertown town Councilor Cecilia Lenk saw nothing she didn’t expect in the pictures of Tsarnaev, but it doesn’t mean the photos had no effect. Starting with the Rolling Stone cover, the pictures have revived memories of a terrifying time for Watertown residents, she said.
“It’s kind of like you’re not able to get away from it,” Lenk said.
Tsarnaev has pleaded not guilty to numerous charges related to the April 15 bombing, which killed 3 and injured more than 260 others near the marathon’s finish line.
He was captured April 19 after escaping during a shootout with police in Watertown the night before, running over his older brother and fellow suspect, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, in the process. Tamerlan Tsarnaev died following the shootout.
Watertown was in lockdown the next day as thousands of law enforcement officers, in helmets and Humvees, descended for a door-to-door search for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. He was captured, and caught on film by Murphy, after the lockdown was lifted and a homeowner noticed streaks of blood on his boat.
The Rolling Stone cover story on Tsarnaev was released online this week, a few days after his public court appearance. Critics blasted the magazine, saying the cover shot of Tsarnaev was reminiscent of the magazine’s flattering portrayals or rock legends such as Jim Morrison. Rolling Stone says the story was part of its commitment to “serious and thoughtful coverage” of important political and cultural issues.
Murphy, in his statement to Boston Magazine, said his photos show “the real Boston bomber. Not someone fluffed and buffed for the cover of Rolling Stone magazine.”
Murphy has not returned calls from The Associated Press. No one answered the door Friday at the blue cottage along the coast in Biddeford, Maine, where neighbors said he spends weekends.
Christina DiIorio-Sterling, a spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz, who is prosecuting the marathon bombing case, called Murphy’s release of the photos “completely unacceptable.”
Defense attorney Peter Elikann, who’s not involved in the case, said that Tsarnaev’s attorney could try to use Murphy’s statement to try to show the investigation was biased against her client.
“If he expressed that he released those because of anger or because of hatred, that’s never good to do in a criminal investigation,” Elikann said.
Lanzo said she’s glad Murphy released the photos, especially after the Rolling Stone cover, even though it brought back unsettling memories.
“You’re almost making him look like this kid that, you know, doesn’t look too bad,” she said. “And then when you know the whole story and you see these pictures, I think it sheds a different light on it.”