Capturing the Real Face of Terror: Photographing Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

In one of the first interviews since he retired, Sgt. Sean Murphy visited TIME to discuss the photographs he made during the dramatic capture of suspected Boston Marathon Bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on April 19, 2013.

Five tense days in Boston ended in a boat stored in a yard in Watertown, Mass., 7 1⁄2 miles from a Boston Marathon finish line still disarrayed and deserted.

As a photographer for the Massachusetts State Police, Sergeant Sean Murphy deployed with hundreds of officers assigned to capture Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, a suspect, along with his brother Tamerlan, in the Boston Marathon bombings, an attack which killed three and injured hundreds.

On the evening of April 19, police received the tip that brought them to this northwestern suburb. As police surrounded the area, Murphy, about 75 feet away, photographed Tsarnaev as he emerged from the boat with his hands up and in the sights of nearby snipers.

“It was surreal,” Murphy says. “This was the guy who had executed a police officer. This was the guy who set the bombs off at the finish line of the marathon. This was the guy who had hurt Boston.”

Murphy’s photos would likely have remained unseen if not for Rolling Stone’s decision to put Tsarnaev on the cover months later, leading some to complain that he was being glamorized. “I knew the image I had of the bad guy in the boat was the real face of terror,” says Murphy, who felt compelled to share his photos with Boston magazine without authorization.

Murphy later retired with an honorable discharge, but he doesn’t regret what he did. “Sometimes, doing what’s wrong is the right thing to do,” he says.

6:02.14 p.m.:  Tactical Police Officers converge on the house where 19-year-old Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was hiding at the time of his in Watertown, Mass.

See more of Sgt. Murphy’s incredible photographs.


Josh Sanburn is a writer/reporter for TIME in New York. Follow him on Twitter @joshsanburn.


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