Peers puzzled at motive for slaying of 'jolly' San Francisco student 

Slain 16-year-old sophomore Andy Zeng was a “jolly” and beloved student at Thurgood Marshall Academic High School who loved video games, rarely missed class and was not in a gang, the school principal and Zeng's peers said Tuesday.

Stunned students at the school are mourning Zeng’s death this week. On Sunday, the sophomore’s body was found in a home in the Silver Terrace neighborhood. He did not live in the home. Police say the teen was murdered.

Four teenagers have been arrested and a fifth teen was being sought in connection with the killing. Police were called to the two-story house in the 2100 block of Quesada Avenue around 4:30 a.m. Sunday.

A resident in an upstairs unit of the two-story building smelled gas, went to check on the unit below and found Zeng.

Rumors were circulating among some neighbors Monday that Zeng’s body was discovered with a bag over his head. Some media reports claimed Zeng had been shot. Police, however, would not confirm those reports and they have not released details on how Zeng was killed.

A resident told cops he smelled some type of gas coming from the bottom-floor unit of the two-unit home, according to reports from police and neighbors.

Police said the call came in as a suicide, but after arriving at the scene investigators ruled the death a homicide.

The suspects are accused of dousing the crime scene with liquid accelerant, either kerosene or gasoline, according to police.

To his knowledge, none of the suspects attend Thurgood Marshall, said school principal Guillermo Morales.

Students and administrators were shocked at Zeng’s passing. As many as 10 grief counselors at the school were made available to students trying to cope with the death, according to San Francisco Unified School District spokeswoman Heidi Anderson.

In front of the school Tuesday, an American flag was flown at half-staff to honor Zeng.

Friends of Zeng started a Facebook page to memorialize the teen.

Zeng was a popular student, Morales said. He may not have been a star athlete, but he was well known for being overtly friendly and persistent, he said.

When Zeng said greeted people at school, “he took the time to extend his hand and say good morning,” Morales said.

Students headed off campus Tuesday called Zeng “jolly” and “a good guy.”

He was an average student who had a strong attendance record at school and wasn’t in a gang, Morales said. He also took part in a video games club at the school.

On Tuesday, students were signing an 8-foot banner memorializing Zeng. The banner read “Rest in peace, we will miss you,” and will be sent to Zeng’s family, Morales said.

The news of Zeng’s passing spread quickly among students on social media sites including Twitter and Tumblr.

“I found out during 3rd period today,” a Thurgood Marshall sophomore wrote on her Tumblr page Tuesday. “Marvin, Jason, Joanne, Eric and me were all in shocked (sic). We called your phone, you didn’t pick up. I cried during lunch.”

maldax@sfexaminer.com

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