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.
Ashurmamad Miraliev

Ashurmamad Miraliev

When Tatiana Gruzdeva first met Ibgrim Todashev through a mutual friend, she was new to Florida, staying with friends, and looking for a more permanent place to live.

Todashev told her he had a big apartment with two floors. He invited her to move in, she said. She took one floor and he took another.

“First it was just friends,” she said, “and after we starting having relationship and we were sleeping together like boyfriend and girlfriend.” She used to cook him meals. Together they adopted a cat, Masia. “It was like a small family, me and him and the cat, he was like a little baby for us.”

She knew Todashev had been married before, to Reni Manukyan, 24, an Armenian-American he had met in Boston. Manukyan has told the Washington Post that she and Todashev were separated. Gruzdeva said she believed they were divorced.

Around the time of the marathon bombing, Gruzdeva recalled, Todashev seemed sad. At first he would not tell her why.

“When the bombings happened, he didn’t tell me it was his friend, he just was so sad. I said, ‘What happen with you?’ He said, ‘Nothing.’ Long time he don’t want to tell me. And after he tell me, “My friend is dead.” He didn’t elaborate, she said. She never knew the name of the friend he was mourning.

One morning in May, as Gruzdeva was washing dishes, Todashev stepped outside. Then, through the window, she heard men shouting: “Move down! Move down!” She turned off the water and looked out to see her boyfriend on the ground, surrounded by FBI agents. They were wearing plainclothes, she said, so at first she had no idea who the men were. “I was so nervous I panicked,” she said. She shut the door and ran upstairs, where she hid in the second floor bathroom. When she emerged, Todashev was in handcuffs, with six or seven FBI agents around him.

They put a chair in the middle of the room, she said, and made Todashev sit in it.

“Ibragim said, ‘I have a pain in my knee, I just had surgery.’ They said, ‘We don’t care, we just have a couple questions for you. We know you was an ultimate fighter with MMA, so we know you could do something.’ He said, ‘I will not do anything because I’m just off surgery, I’m not stupid.’”

The agents began questioning Todashev about the Boston bombing, she said, asking him what he knew and where he was the day of the attack. Gruzdeva spoke up: “He was with me, he was in the house, we didn’t do anything wrong,” she recalled telling the agents.

“They just kept asking again and again, the same questions,” she said.

They asked Todashev if he knew Tamerlan Tsarnaev, she said. He replied that the two of them had been friends. In Boston they had trained in martial arts together and gone clubbing together before Tsarnaev had become more devout. Gruzdeva told me that this was the first time she had heard her boyfriend talk about Tsarnaev.

Eventually, the agents left with Todashev, confiscating all his phones and all his computers. About six hours later, she said, Todashev came back and reassured her that everything was OK. The next day, she said, agents returned their electronics.

In the days that followed, Gruzdeva said, the FBI contacted the couple regularly on the phone, visited their home, and called them into FBI offices for more questioning.

The agents asked about a call Todashev received from Tsarnaev after Todashev’s surgery. Todashev told the FBI that the two men had simply made small talk. They pressed him, asking why he had deleted the call from his phone’s memory. “I was scared,” Gruzdeva remembered him answering.

When Gruzdeva met with FBI agents, she said, they at first continued to ask her about the marathon bombing. Then they brought up a new topic: a triple murder.

“They said, ‘We think he did something else, before.’ They said he killed three people in Boston 2011 with a knife. I said, ‘It’ s not true! I can’t believe it.’ You know, I was living with him seven months, and we have a cat.”

Gruzdeva told me that she and Todashev believed they were being followed by the FBI on their way to work or to visit friends. Todashev would point out cars that he believed were driven by FBI agents, she said.

One day, the FBI called Todashev back to their office again. Gruzdeva went with him and waited in the lobby, she said. That’s when an agent she recognized approached her and asked to talk.

“And I already saw him a couple times so it was normal, so I told him, ‘I’m waiting for Ibragim,’” she told me. “And he said, ‘So what? It’s just going to be a couple minutes. He knows about it.’” So she went with him to an office. Another agent joined them, she said. Then, she says, they questioned her for three hours.

“They asked me again and again about Ibragim and all this stuff. They asked me, ‘Can you tell us when he will do something?’ I said, ‘No! I can’t!’ Because he wasn’t doing anything, and I didn’t know anything. And they said, ‘Oh, really? So why don’t we call immigration.’”