30-Year-old Nikhom Thephakaysone, the man accused of shooting 20-year-old S.F. State Student Justin Valdez in the head as he stepped off a Muni Metro train late last month has pled not guilty to three felony counts of murder with a firearm, assault with a firearm and possession of an illegal assault rifle. According to prosecutors, bystanders on the Muni train failed to notice the shooter's weapon because they were too absorbed in their electronic devices.
Prosecutors also allege Thephakaysone was hunting for a victim on the night of September 23rd. Before the shooting took place near Randolph and Bright Streets in Ingleside Heights, Thephakaysone allegedly threatened another man with the .45 caliber handgun by sticking it in his back. He was also seen brandishing the weapon outside a Thai restaurant near the campus of San Francisco State University before he boarded the M-Ocean View train where Valdez was killed.
On Muni's surveillance footage, Thephakaysone can be seen brandishing the weapon and at one point he can even be spotted holding it in his hand as he wiped his nose. The other Muni riders were "completely unaware and absorbed with their electronic devices," Assistant District Attorney Scot Clark said during an arraignment hearing Wednesday.
Prosecutors believe the shooting was random and that Valdez was unknown to the suspect prior to the incident. On the Muni footage, the victim can reportedly be heard asking for help before losing consciousness. Investigators later found survival equipment, $20,000 in cash and several rifles at his home just a few block from where Valdez was killed.
Thephakaysone is currently being held without bail. He is scheduled to appear in court again on November 20th.