Justin Valdez, Popular Garden Grove Student, Fatally Shot in San Francisco; Suspect Held

Police in San Francisco are still trying to unravel the events that led to the fatal shooting of a popular former Garden Grove High School student. Justin Valdez, a 20-year-old student at San Francisco State University, was gunned down Monday as he was departing a Muni light-rail car.


The shooting happened around 9:50 p.m. as Valdez left an eastbound Muni train near Randolph and Bright streets, according to the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD).

The M-Ocean View line stops at that corner, and police on Tuesday went to the Ocean View district home of Nikhom Thephakaysone to arrest the 24-year-old for Valdez's murder. Baghdad by the Bay homicide detectives describe it as a “random” shooting of Valdez, who moved there two years ago to attend the university where he was a sophomore. He had no known connection to Thephakaysone.

Les Wong, the SFSU president, issued this statement Wednesday: “This is truly a tragedy for Justin's friends and family, and for the entire University community. I have reached out to Justin's family to offer our heartfelt concern, and to assure them that we stand ready to offer support and assistance at this difficult time.”

The deceased is also being remembered fondly back home in Orange County. A Memorial for Justin Valdez page has been set up on Facebook. It includes details for a vigil on the Garden Grove High pool deck from 5:30 to 9 p.m. Sunday.


We'll be celebrating his beautiful life, sharing good memories, and being with old friends we haven't seen since we graduated.

Bring all your recyclables. All donations will be going to his family.

If you have any questions or want to contribute to this event in a unique way/have any ideas feel free to message me via Facebook or text (Viv).

Thank you Justin for showing us what it's like to know someone truly amazing and inspirational. You've changed this world for the better in the short amount of time you were here. You're forever in our hearts. We love you.

The pool deck is the spot because Valdez played on the school's water polo team, and his Facebook page indicates he swam for SFSU's water polo team as well.

The recyclables bit owes to his concern for the environment. Principal Steve Osborne called Valdez a “passionate and persistent” student who was the president of the school's environmental club and a top competitor in the Garden Grove High aquatics program.

Valdez frequently talked with Osborne about changes to the school's recycling program and pushed tirelessly to establish a “Lights Out Wednesday” program to cut GGHS's carbon footprint, the principal tells San Francisco's CBS affiliate.

“It's been devastating for teachers who knew him,” Osborne said.

Email: mc****@oc******.com. Twitter: @MatthewTCoker. Follow OC Weekly on Twitter @ocweekly or on Facebook!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *