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Teen with Tibetan roots fatally shot in Somerville

The scene of the shooting at 14 Farragut Ave. in Somerville.Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe

SOMERVILLE — Tenzin Kunkhyen’s parents moved to the United States from India, but the 16-year-old was in many ways a son of Somerville.

He grew up in the city, cheered for the Celtics, and launched a public campaign to be allowed to stay enrolled at Somerville High School after his family moved to Malden.

“[I]’ve always been a part of the Somerville Public School System and i’ve always loved Somerville and i want to continue on in SHS and one day graduate from here,” the teen wrote last year on social media.

Tenzin Kunkhyen.Facebook

But his dreams were tragically cut short late Tuesday afternoon, when he was fatally shot inside a home at 14 Farragut Ave. Middlesex District Attorney Marian T. Ryan’s office identified Kunkhyen on Wednesday.


No arrests had been made, and authorities had not released details about the shooting, except to say it was not a random act and that Kunkhyen was in the house with people who knew him. He was pronounced dead at Mount Auburn Hospital after suffering a gunshot wound in the chest, officials said.

Outside of Somerville High Wednesday, where students had a half-day for the first day of classes, friends of the fallen teenager were stunned.

“It’s a damn shame,” said a 17-year-old senior who would give only his first name, Chris.

Chris said he believed Kunkhyen had played Pop Warner football and that he “always kept himself very genuine, really positive.”

“He knew he was going to be somebody,” Chris added.

Another friend, fellow senior Carlos DaSilva, also 17, said he and Kunkhyen regularly hung out together at the public library next to the school and shared snacks.

“He was so nice about it,” DaSilva said. “We would talk about our classes.”

Kunkhyen sometimes even spoke like an encouraging adult, offering tips on “how to survive high school,” DaSilva said.


He said his friend would tell him, “ ‘Make sure you stay in school. Don’t do drugs, don’t do alcohol.’ He lived life to the fullest.”

Back on Farragut, a young resident of the home where the shooting occurred was in no mood to speak to reporters. A teenager who appeared to be about the same age as Kunkhyen answered the door at approximately 10:30 a.m. and declined to speak to a reporter.

“I cannot. I’m sorry,” the boy said. “I have absolutely nothing to say.”

He then shut the door of the modest 2½-story home with a brick facade. A bicycle was lying in the side yard, and a wreath was on the front door. Strips of police tape remained on the sidewalk nearby.

A State Police detective arrived on the street a few minutes later and went from house to house, knocking on doors in an effort to speak with neighbors.

The detective at one point talked briefly on the street with Michele O’Connell, 47, and her husband Robert, 48.

During prior summers, the couple said, they often saw a lot of guests using the pool in the backyard of 14 Farragut. But this summer has been different. “We noticed this summer that it’s been pretty quiet,” Michelle O’Connell said.

Tenzin Sonam, spokesman for the Tibetan Association of Boston, said the Kunkhyen family is of Tibetan heritage and emigrated from India to the United States years ago.

They currently live in Malden.


“He was the son of Tibetan parents who moved here from India,’’ he said. “The family is devastated’’ by his death.

Sonam said he had no information on the case. “His relatives are in shock,’’ he said.

Diane Clark, the mother of one of Kunkhyen’s childhood friends, Boston Ballet II dancer Tyson Ali Clark, called the death tragic. “He was always pleasant. A nice kid,’’ she said in a telephone interview Wednesday. “Very quiet.”

She said Kunkhyen and her son attended elementary school together but have had less direct contact since Tyson has focused on his pursuit of a career in ballet.

But Kunkhyen still took an interest in his friend, even as they drifted apart. The night before he died, Kunkhyen posted a link on his Facebook page to a Boston Globe article detailing Tyson’s work with the ballet.

On Tuesday morning, hours before the shooting, Tyson had left a comment below the article, calling his friend “brother.”

Another commenter wrote after Kunkhyen’s death, “RIP cuz.”

Globe correspondent Adam Sennott and Globe staff reporter Danny McDonald contributed to this report.