Waltham teenager shot in drug deal, police say

The Waltham teenager who was shot in an apartment complex parking lot last week was killed during an attempted drug rip-off that was set up as retaliation against one of the suspects in the shooting, police say.

According to documents filed in court this week, Tyler Zanco, 17, and two friends from Waltham High School planned on Thursday to rob Taylor Poulin, 21, of Newton, believing that Poulin had cheated Zanco’s younger cousin of 2 ounces of marijuana in a previous drug deal.

The plot went awry, and the night ended with Zanco, captain of his high school wrestling team, shot in the back, allegedly by Domingo Mendes, a 22-year-old from Belmont who is now wanted on murder charges.


The details of the shooting and the events leading up to it emerged in an affidavit filed in support of arrest warrants against Poulin and Mendes, who remained at large Wednesday night. Authorities had previously provided few details about the killing, except to say it was not random.

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On Tuesday, authorities released photographs of Mendes and Poulin as suspects in the shooting and asked for the public’s help in locating them.

In the five-page court document, police describe how Zanco and two friends set up the drug deal to target Poulin, also known as Tru, whom Zanco “had recently had problems with.”

“The victim wanted to rip off and beat up Tru for this incident with his cousin,” a Waltham police detective wrote.

The encounter quickly turned violent, with Zanco using a stun gun on Poulin. The two men then began fighting, and Poulin cried out for Mendes to shoot Zanco, the affidavit said. According to the account in the documents, Mendes first fired the gun in the air, leading Zanco to flee across the parking lot. Mendes then allegedly shot Zanco in the back.


One of Zanco’s friends ran to a friend’s house, telling his friend: “My boy just got shot. We got set up,” according to the account.

When police arrived at the apartment complex, they followed a trail of blood to Zanco’s body. He was found with a pair of brass knuckles in his pocket.

According to witnesses “known to investigators,” Mendes later spoke to his girlfriend on the phone, crying and saying he was sorry. He allegedly admitted that he had grabbed Poulin’s gun from his hip and shot Zanco, police said.

Two women who had accompanied Mendes and Poulin to the drug deal told police Mendes said, “I shot him, I shot him,” as he drove from the scene. Mendes and Poulin later parked their car in Kenmore Square and left in a cab, police said.

Poulin and Mendes each have prior arrests on drug charges, police said.


Zanco’s friends have described him as a popular athlete with a strong work ethic who dreamed of joining the Marine Corps. The night before he was killed, Zanco was honored at the school for his achievements as captain of the wrestling team, a friend said.

In a statement released Wednesday, the Zanco family thanked the Waltham police for their “hard work and diligence in working to apprehend those responsible for Tyler’s death.”

“We have faith that justice will be served by the judicial system, allowing us to begin the grieving process for the loss of our beloved son Tyler,” the family wrote.

Peter Schworm can be reached at