GARDEN GROVE (CBSLA.com) — An emotional vigil was held Friday evening in memory of a 20-year-old Garden Grove man who was killed in an unprovoked shooting in San Francisco.
Officials said Justin Valdez was shot by Nikhom Thephakaysone, 30, after he got off a street car Monday night.
KCAL9’s Stacey Butler attended the vigil — fittingly held at Garden Grove High School’s pool deck. Valdez was an award-winning swimmer while he attended the school.
Hundreds turned out to express their sadness and grief.
“Just a few weeks ago when he was down. We shared our last birthday together,” said Jessica Labidi.
Valdez’ only sister, Labidi, couldn’t have known it then but his recent visit to the family home in Orange County would be his last.
“They told me when he was shot he screamed for help. Everyone just came running by his side, they were holding his hand,” she said.
Labidi shook while addressing the large crowd.
Police now say the suspect was just looking to shoot someone and told authorities he was “hunting people.” Valdez was his third and fatal target that night.
“Justin, you became one of my closest friends in senior year,” said friend Mia Huynh, “and you remained one of my closest friends until the day you died.”
Friends said that despite the fact Valdez was a standout student, gifted athlete, popular and avid environmentalist, the reason he was so liked was because of the way he treated others.
They remembered Valdez as always smiling with an encouraging word and hug for everyone.
“I miss you,” said a friend, “Don’t forget to change Heaven like you were going to change the world Justin.”
A fund was set up for Justin Valdez’s family to help with burial expenses. They are half way to their $8,000 goal. For more information on how to donate, click here.