A Russian government spokesman blamed Chechen guerrillas for the murder. The gunmen reportedly speoke Chechen, but local residents said the militants had no reason to kill the cameraman.
During the first Chechen war (1994-1996), Tepsurgayev worked as a driver and fixer for foreign journalists. Later, he started shooting footage from the front lines of the conflict between Russian troops and separatist guerrillas. Reuters' Moscow bureau chief, Martin Nesirky, described him as an "irregular contributor." While most of Reuters' footage from Chechnya in 2000 was credited to Tepsurgayev, including shots of Chechen field commander Shamil Basayev having his foot amputated, he had not worked for Reuters in the six months before he died.