Authorities have partially blamed gadget-absorbed commuters for failing to notice a gun-wielding assailant who calmly took his time before shooting a man point blank on a San Francisco train.
The man, 30-year-old Nikhom Thephakaysone, flashed his .45-caliber pistol several times in front of everyone, before proceeding to shoot San Francisco State University student Justin Valdez, 20, in the back of the head before leaving the train.
Police believe the attack to have been completely unprovoked.
The accused, Nikhom Thephakaysone. Screenshot from YouTube user sanfrancisoPD
The September 23 incident, as reported by the San Francisco Chronicle, involved security footage showing Thephakaysone pulling out the gun, raising and pointing it – even wiping his nose with the sleeve of that hand – before tucking the weapon away and drawing it again several more times with nobody any the wiser. He then simply shot Valdez and disembarked.
This incident highlights an increasing lack of attention from passers-by, authorities say, alluding to the spread of hi-tech toys. People are so engulfed by their hand-held entertainment devices that they pay almost zero attention to their surroundings.
District Attorney George Gascon believes technology has greatly hindered people’s ability to concentrate, leading to increased crime, as well as theft.
“These weren’t concealed movements — the gun is very clear,” he told the Chronicle. “They’re just so engrossed, texting and reading and whatnot. They’re completely oblivious of their surroundings.”
Following a speedy arrest, several charges were leveled at Thephakaysone, including murder and assault with a semi-automatic handgun. He pleaded not guilty.
Despite this lack of admission, the police discovered a small weapons arsenal after carrying out a search of his apartment. The weapons found included two assault rifles and multiple combat knives, adding illegal possession of assault weapons to the charges.
Subsequent investigation revealed that Valdez was almost the second victim that night, as Thephakaysone had stuck a gun in another man’s back just hours before as he looked for someone to shoot. He did not pull the trigger, choosing to go hunting for another hour. He then wound up in front of a Thai restaurant, where he again waved and played around with his gun, Assistant District Attorney Scot Clark said.