SF State, friends and family remember Justin Valdez at candlelight vigil

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SF State students, professors, friends and family met to remember recently deceased student Justin Valdez at a candlelight vigil yesterday night atop Cesar Chavez Student Center.

“He was fearless. He didn’t fear life,” said Valdez’s older sister Jessica Labidi.

Jessica and Nizar Labidi, sister and brother-in-law of Justin Valdez, attend the candlelight vigil on top of the Cesar Chavez Student Center at SF State for Valdez on Thursday, Sept. 26. Valdez was a SF State student who was shot and killed on Sept. 23 as he got off of the M-Oceanview train in Ingleside. Photo by John Ornelas / Xpress

Jessica and Nizar Labidi, sister and brother-in-law of Justin Valdez, attend the candlelight vigil on top of the Cesar Chavez Student Center at SF State for Valdez on Thursday, Sept. 26. Valdez was a SF State student who was shot and killed on Sept. 23 as he got off of the M-Oceanview train in Ingleside. Photo by John Ornelas / Xpress

Valdez, a 20-year-old SF State sophomore, was shot in the back of the head Monday night at about 9:50 p.m. as he got off an eastbound M-Oceanview Muni train at Randolph and Bright Streets in Ingleside. Valdez’s alleged shooter, SF State student Nikhom Thephakaysone, was arraigned Friday and faces three felony charges including murder.

During the vigil several students from, SF State Eco Students, an environmental organization Valdez was involved with as a freshman, remembered his tireless efforts to educate others about recycling and sustainability.

“He wanted to save the world, he wanted to take initiative and become the president of Eco Students, and I did see that in his future,” said Sharon Daraphonhdeth, Sustainable Initiatives program coordinator.

SF State junior Robyn Shigemitsu rode the same train as Valdez Monday night. She watched Valdez get off the train and saw a man take aim and shoot the 20-year-old Valdez.

Although Shigemitsu didn’t know Valdez personally, she attended the vigil to pay her respect.

“I don’t want to remember him as a boy who was shot late at night. I wanted to learn about a boy that brought light into people’s lives,” she said.

Risa Cantu C’DeBaca, a graduate student at the University and a teacher’s assistant to one of Valdez’s professors, recounted the memory of him being the only student to email her after she guest lectured a class of 100 students during the Fall semester last year.

C’DeBaca said Valdez was the first student to attend her office hours and was always energetic and eager to learn.

At the vigil she announced she would dedicate her Master’s Degree she is currently working on to Valdez.

“He’s the reason why I’m in graduate school. He’s the reason why I want to be a teacher,” C’DeBaca said. “I know that I have to carry on and work really hard for Justin’s behalf because he won’t get a chance to.”