ATHOL (CBS) – At the Athol Board of Selectmen meeting Tuesday night, a surprise guest showed up to say thank you. “Good evening, I’m Sean Murphy and I’m recently retired from the Mass. State Police,” Murphy said. “Please pass it along to the people of Athol that I greatly, greatly appreciate the warm welcome you extended to me when I was transferred to the state police barracks in Athol.” Two Selectmen and other townspeople had put up signs showing support and he recently learned of an ad published in the Athol Daily News in his honor.
Sean Murphy was a tactical photographer and was on the ground the April night Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was captured in a boat in a backyard in Watertown. He got the series of shots that show the younger of the marathon bombing suspects bloody and finally surrendering to police.
Then, in July, he saw Rolling Stone magazine. On its cover, a shot of Tsarnaev that made him mad. Many felt it made the alleged bomber out to be a rock star. “I was furious. Everyone was furious. It was wrong,” he said.
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In response, Murphy decided to leak his photos to another magazine. They were published in Boston Magazine and to him, showed the truth. “It was the real face of terror. It wasn’t the guy who was fluffed and buffed for the cover of Rolling Stone. That was the guy, that was the guy who hurt all those people,” he said.
Murphy was disciplined by State Police and says some of the charges against him were hurtful. He was reassigned in August to a midnight shift at the Athol Barracks. He knew, though, he’d never take pictures again for his long-time employer, and instead decided to retire. “I was not forced to retire. I have 25 years of honorable service. I’m very fortunate that I can retire with a pension and I have nothing bad to say about the State Police.” State Police confirm his retirement. “He retired last week, of his own volition,” wrote spokesperson David Procopio. “The charges against him were sustained, and he was disciplined.”
Murphy defends his reaction to the Rolling Stone cover. He says he knew it was wrong to release the pictures and he knew he’d be held accountable. But he has absolutely no regrets. “The way I saw it, there was no way I could not react to it. What Rolling Stone did was wrong and the images I knew existed had to be shown,” he said. “I would do it again.”
Murphy has taken out his own ad in the Athol paper later this week to again say thank you. He isn’t sure what’s next after 25 years on the force, but says he’d like to get back into photography. “I would also like to do volunteer work with police survivors and military families. I’ve been doing that all along,” he added.
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