She was an 'innocent bystander'
May 15, 2009
By Bill Kirk
The Eagle Tribune (Massachusetts, USA)
LAWRENCE — Sophal Choeun spoke quietly as she leafed through a family photo album that contained pictures of her dead daughter and her other children.
"I pray to God they find who did this to my daughter," said Choeun, 45, a Cambodian immigrant who lives with her three other children and mother on the second floor of an Abbott Street multifamily house.
Her daughter, Tavaryna Choeun, 17, a Lawrence High School dropout with a history of running away from home, died yesterday in the Lahey Clinic in Burlington, where she was brought Tuesday night after she was shot once in the head in Lowell.
Police said Choeun was an "innocent bystander" — shot while riding in the front passenger seat of a car with a male friend driving and a female friend in the back seat.
No arrests were made as of last night. Authorities said they believe they know who the shooter is.
Middlesex District Attorney Gerry Leone said yesterday the driver and shooter, who are gang-affiliated, had an altercation earlier in the day, but the shooting was not gang-related.
Leone said a car pulled up alongside them and someone fired several shots, hitting Choeun once in the head. No one else was injured.
He said Choeun's two friends then dumped her body onto Suffolk Street in Lowell, where a passer-by saw her and called police.
Corey Welford, a spokesman for Leone, said police found Choeun on the street in front of 132 Suffolk St. at 10:14 p.m.
Choeun moved to Lowell to live with her 20-year-old boyfriend several months ago.
Leone said the driver and the other female passenger were interviewed, and that it was not known why they didn't take her to a hospital or call 911.
"I'll go see her in Boston today," said Choeun's mother, her other children and mother sitting by her side on a couch in the living room of their apartment at 184 Abbott St.
Choeun said her daughter had never been in trouble, and Lawrence police Chief John Romero confirmed yesterday that the girl had never been arrested in Lawrence.
The victim's sister, Maryanne Choeun, 18, said Tavaryna had dropped out of high school in her freshman year and had run away from home several times. She recently ran away from her foster home in Lawrence and had been living with her 20-year-old boyfriend in Lowell.
Tavaryna's father lives in California and is traveling in Cambodia, said Maryanne Choeun, adding that she hasn't seen her father in years and that he was unaware of his daughter's death.
Aside from her father, mother and sister Maryanne, Tavaryna has a younger sister, Susan, 16, and brother, Peter, 7, and grandmother, Chy.