San Francisco train gunman fails to attract attention of ‘overly engrossed’ smartphone users

By Scott Kaufman
Wednesday, October 9, 2013 14:37 EDT
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["Young Woman At Amusement Park Using Their Phones" on Shutterstock]
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San Francisco police allege that on September 23, Nikhom Thephakaysone shot and killed college student Justin Valdez while they were getting off the train.

The randomness of the alleged murder is made more troubling, according to investigators, because of video evidence that demonstrates that although Thephakaysone openly brandished his .45-caliber pistol, commuters were too engrossed in their smartphones to notice.

“These weren’t concealed movements — the gun is very clear,” San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón told the San Francisco Chronicle. “These people are in very close proximity with him, and nobody sees this. They’re just so engrossed, texting and reading and whatnot. They’re completely oblivious of their surroundings.”

The Chronicle also spoke to Ohio State University’s Jack Nasar, a professor in city and regional planning, who asked “[w]hat happens to public places when everybody is talking on a cell phone?”

“Everyone is somewhere else,” he answered. “Someone can take a gun, hold it up, and nobody will notice it.”

This is precisely what police believe Thephakaysone did. Video surveillance indicates he raised his gun, pointed it across the aisle, then tucked it back into his jacket. He repeated this motion “several” more times, even wiping his nose with his gun-hand, but none of the other passengers noticed.

They only lifted their eyes, police say, when they heard the gunman fire the bullet that ended Justin Valdez’s life.

["Young Woman At Amusement Park Using Their Phones" on Shutterstock]

Scott Kaufman
Scott Kaufman
Scott Eric Kaufman is the proprietor of the AV Club's Internet Film School and, in addition to Raw Story, also writes for Lawyers, Guns & Money. He earned a Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of California, Irvine in 2008.
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