New Details in the FBI Shooting Death of Tamerlan Tsarnaev Associate

Ibragim Todashev’s live-in girlfriend, Tatiana Gruzdeva, reveals what happened in the days leading up to the shooting in their Florida apartment.
Ibragim Todashev and Tatiana Gruzdeva

Ibragim Todashev and Tatiana Gruzdeva

  • Boston magazine has learned that Orlando police have arrested a man believed to be a friend of Ibragim Todashev—the Chechen man shot by the FBI in May while being questioned in his Florida apartment in connection with both the marathon bombings and a 2011 triple homicide in Waltham.
  • According to an arrest affidavit obtained from the Orange County Sheriff’s office, Ashurmamad Miraliev, 23, originally from Tajikistan, was arrested at about 6 p.m. Wednesday on an Osceola County warrant for allegedly threatening a victim of a crime. It is not known whether this charge has anything to do with Todashev’s death, the bombings, or the homicide case.
  • The affidavit states that Miraliev was questioned by the FBI before being booked into jail and held on a $50,000 bond. Allen Moore, public information officer for Orange County Corrections, said that Miraliev was being held for both the Osceola warrant and a detainer from a federal agency that, by law, he could not name. He did say that the agency was not the FBI.
  • With Miraliev at the time of his arrest was a 19-year-old woman named Tatiana Gruzdeva, who had been Todashev’s live-in girlfriend. She and Miraliev live in the apartment where Todashev was killed.

On Wednesday night, hours after the arrest, I spoke with Gruzdeva on the phone. She described to me the events of the days leading up to Todashev’s killing, which she said she learned of while being held in solitary confinement. “There is a lot of pain in my heart,” she told me, weeping.

In the moments before Todashev’s death, the FBI claims, he implicated both himself and marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev in the murder of three young men in Waltham on September 11, 2011. One of those men, Erik Weissman, was my friend. My father Norman Zalkind, a defense lawyer, was representing him for a pending January 2011 drug charge.

The FBI has given conflicting accounts of Todashev’s killing, and institutions including the ACLU and the Boston Globe have called for a fuller investigation of the incident.

A few weeks ago, I sent a Facebook friend request to an account in the name of Todashev’s girlfriend, Tatiana Gruzdeva. Until Wednesday, Gruzdeva had not spoken to the press. Her Facebook profile—which is also linked to her account on the European social network Vk.com—includes dozens of photos and status updates in both English and Russian, and dates back to at least June, 2012. I knew from news reports that Gruzdeva had been held by immigration during the time Todashev was questioned and killed by the FBI. After Todashev’s death, she had been scheduled for deportation, but in August the Globe reported that she had been “mysteriously released” from custody, and that her expired visa had been extended for a year.

On Wednesday night, at 10:41 p.m., my friend request was accepted. We exchanged several messages on Facebook. Soon I found myself on the phone with a woman who told me she was Gruzdeva. She told me it had been only a few hours since the police had arrested her roommate, Ashurmamad Miraliev, and she was shaken. At the time we spoke, no media outlet had reported on Miraliev’s arrest, and his name had never entered the public discussion of the Todashev case. I later independently confirmed Miraliev’s arrest via law enforcement documents and officials; according to Miraliev’s arrest affidavit, he was living at Todashev’s former address. Calls to the FBI, as well as to Gruzdeva’s lawyer, were not immediately returned.

Gruzdeva sent me two photographs—one showing herself with Todashev, another of Todashev alone—as well as a video (posted below) of Todashev apparently taken with a cell phone, in which a woman can be heard speaking to him in Russian. (She also sent me a photo of their cat.)

I identified myself as a reporter, and we talked for a little over an hour, then texted until 1 a.m. At times, she was emotional. She spoke in imperfect English, with a Slavic accent. She said she’d never talked to a member of the press about this. I do not know why she chose to speak to me.

Here is what she told me.

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