Nikhom Thephakaysone will be arraigned today, Oct. 2 at 9 a.m. on three felony charges including the murder of Justin Valdez; they were both SF State students.
Valdez, the 20-year-old sophomore was fatally shot in the back of the head at about 9:50 p.m. Monday, Sept. 23, after getting off an eastbound M-Ocean View Muni train at Randolph and Bright Streets. San Francisco Police arrested Valdez’s alleged shooter, Thephakaysone, 30, the following day.
Police found no motive for the shooting.
“This has been a painful week for our University community,” President Leslie E. Wong said. “But we are a community known for our compassion and caring, and those values will be a source of strength to all of us during this time of mourning and healing.”
Thephakaysone was arrested at his Ocean View home where police discovered a cache of weapons including assault weapons, four knives and $20,000 in cash. He is being held without bail on three felony charges including murder, assault with a deadly weapon and possession of an illegal assault weapon, according to the San Francisco District Attorney’s office.
The defendant allegedly threatened two other people with his .45 caliber handgun the same night as the shooting. Bystanders saw him brandish the weapon outside a Thai restaurant earlier that evening.
CBS SF Bay Area reported that Thephakaysone was caught on Muni surveillance revealing his weapon on the M-line train just before the shooting. None of the nearby passengers seemed to notice.
Thephakaysone transferred to SF State in 2008 as a full-time student majoring in dietetics, the same department that manages the Vista Room, according to University spokeswoman Ellen Griffin.
After a year he enrolled in classes as part of the Open University program — an option for people who aren’t pursuing degree programs — and has since, been an off-and-on again student at SF State.
President Leslie E. Wong said the University plans to increase the frequency and visibility of its ‘See something, Say something’ campaign, which was introduced after a bomb threat in the Creative Arts Building last semester. However, he did not elaborate on how.
Although the Valdez shooting didn’t take place on campus, SF State students have expressed a need for this increased sense of security.
“It reminds me that I need to be cautious and safe, even though it proves there’s some things you can’t avoid,” said Ryan Miller, 31, liberal studies major.
“It’s crazy, I didn’t know him personally, but it’s scary. You’re at this school and the school becomes apart of you, so it hits you personally pretty hard,” said SF State student Jamielyn Williams, 20. “It was a random incident, and that makes it even more scary, it could have happened to anyone.”
SF State junior Robyn Shigemitsu rode the same train as Valdez that Monday night. She watched Valdez get off the train and saw a man take aim and shoot.
Shigemitsu didn’t know Valdez personally, but she attended a candlelight vigil hosted by the University last week in conjunction with the vigils in Valdez’s hometown of Garden Grove.
“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.
Valdez was a member of Eco Students, the student-run sustainability club on campus, as well a member of the men’s water polo team.
Students in need of support during this time are encouraged to seek counseling offered by the University’s Counseling and Psychological Services. Contact (415) 338-2208 to set up an appointment.