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Shooting of US-Cambodian Teen Angers a Town

The shooting death of a Cambodian-American girl last week in Lowell, Mass., has caused one community to demand prevention of violence in the future.

Choeun Tavaryna, a 17-year-old high school student, was shot while driving in a car, in what police say was an attempt to kill the driver in gang-related violence.

The United Teen Equality Centre on Tuesday prepared a rally to commemorate the victim’s death at Lowell City Hall.

“Young kids really put it together, to really speak out against the violence that happened last week,” Cregg Croteau, executive director of UTEC told VOA by phone on Tuesday. “We got a young girl, Tavaryna, 17 years old, shot and killed and she was left at the side of the road. So young people will stand up and speak out, that this is considered something that is not OK to have in the community.”

Choeun Tavaryna, a Lawrence high school student, was shot to death by a suspected gang member while she was riding in the front seat of a car with two friends, a male and a female, around the night of May 12.

The attorney general of Middlesex district, Gerry Leone, was quoted by the local media saying that her male friend, who drove the car, had a gang conflict with the alleged perpetrator.

The shot was aimed at the driver but hit the girl when the other vehicle occupants ducked, according to media reports. The police found Choeun Tavaryna’s body at 10: 14 pm, after her friends reportedly pushed her out of the car.

Three days after the shooting, Lowell police arrested a suspect, Ron Srey, 25, at a friend’s home.

Lowell has seen armed violence on the streets in the past, due to gangs and the drug trade.

Cregg said his center and the police are trying to establish programs to prevent young people from being swept up in street violence among gangs.

Vong Ross, president of the Cambodian Mutual Assistant Association, in Lowell, said he had seen similar shootings five or six times already.

In order to prevent violence, his group plans to ask for financial support from the government to create programs to draw youths away from gangs.

“Sometimes we can use knowledge together,” he said. “OK, you know you want to create a computer program, OK, now we can help each other create a Web site to teach other young people.”

Skills of one can be transferred to another, but there has to be incentive, he said.

“If they do their work, we should give them some pay for their work, $7 to $8 an hour, then the kids will come to work and stay away from the gangs,” he said.

His association is also preparing a commemoration ceremony for Choeun Tavaryna on June 6.