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The Boston Globe

Metro

Slain BU student’s passion recalled

Shooting stuns college, friends

Seshadri “Sesh’’ Rao came to BU from eastern India.

Seshadri “Sesh’’ Rao came to Boston University last fall from India with the highest of hopes, one of only 50 students admitted to a selective graduate program that propels young finance majors to Wall Street. Polite and ambitious, he quickly made friends while impressing others with his enthusiasm. Only a week or so ago, he was peppering a dean with questions during a lecture.

That promise came to an abrupt end early Thursday morning when the 24-year-old graduate student was shot to death on a street in the Allston neighborhood of Boston in an apparent homicide that has devastated his family, left neighbors in fear, and stirred concerns here and overseas for student safety.

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“It’s a mystery,’’ said Prasad Thotakura, president of the Telugu Association of North America, a nonprofit in Texas that is helping to return Rao’s body this week to eastern India, where his parents and younger brother live. “They’re really devastated.’’

No arrests have been made. An autopsy was conducted and Boston police and university officials said the investigation is ongoing. Saturday afternoon, several police officers were seen entering the apartment in the pale-blue three-story house where Rao lived. They left a short time later, with one officer carrying a large brown paper bag.

Boston police said they were called to Allston Street just before 3 a.m. Thursday and found Rao bleeding on the ground. He was pronounced dead at the scene, and an autopsy has been conducted.

The slaying sent a chill over the neighborhood where Rao lived, a bustling residential section of Allston across the street from Ringer Park and a five-minute walk from a Green Line MBTA stop on Commonwealth Avenue.

Neighbors said Saturday that they are taking extra care to lock their doors, and debating the wisdom of walking home at night. Ashley, a 24-year-old student who lives in the house next to Rao’s apartment, said she had never felt frightened living in Allston, until now.

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“I’m going to think twice about walking home from the T at night,’’ she said, declining to give her last name. “I usually feel pretty safe. There’s so many college students walking around here all the time. I thought no one would something with all these people around.’’

A man who answered the door at Rao’s apartment acknowledged that Rao was his roommate, but declined to give his name. He said the two were not close friends.

Rao, whose full name is Kanagala Seshadri Rao, arrived in Boston last fall to enroll in a 17-month program to earn a master’s of science in mathematical finance through the School of Management, university officials said. More than 1,000 people from all over the world apply for the program, which includes an internship, and less than 5 percent enroll.

Kenneth W. Freeman, dean of the School of Management, described Rao as a bright young man known by his nickname, “Sesh.’’ He said Rao attracted many friends and won the respect of faculty and staff with his “positive, can-do’’ attitude.

“Sesh was a wonderful student here, and he was also a wonderful representative of the school of management,’’ Freeman said in a phone interview Saturday. “The School of Management community is deeply saddened by this very tragic loss.’’

About a week and a half ago, Freeman said, he gave a lecture on mathematical finance and the importance of leadership in one of Rao’s classes. The young man was deeply engaged, he said, asking many “pointed, relevant questions.’’

According to media in India and social media sites, Rao is the son of a bank employee in Jeypore and has a younger brother who is still in college. In his Linkedin.com profile, Rao said he had earlier studied at the National Institute of Technology, Karnataka, and expected to earn his degree from BU in 2013.

The shooting has stunned students and faculty and cast a pall over the university of more than 31,000 students at a time when prospective students are touring campus and attending open houses, mulling whether to enroll in the urban school.

Boston University President Robert A. Brown sent letters to the university community and prospective students expressing condolences to Rao’s family and reassuring them that the area is usually safe.

In a statement, Brown called the shooting an “isolated incident.’’

Boston University police said they have stepped up patrols on campus and university officials are offering counseling to anyone who needs it. The college attracts a significant number of foreign students such as Rao.

Kenneth Elmore, dean of students at Boston University, said prospective students and their parents are expressing sympathy over Rao’s death, but it was unclear yet if it was playing a role in decisions on whether to enroll.

The slaying has captured the attention of high-level officials in the Indian government, said Virander Paul, a spokesman for Indian embassy in Washington. About 100,000 Indian students are in the United States at any given time, he said, and concern for their safety remains paramount back home.

Globe Correspondent Matthew Rocheleau contributed to this report. Maria Sacchetti can be reached at msacchetti@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @mariasacchetti.

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