Jacob Valdiviezo told his mother he couldn’t come home from college for spring break this year, as he usually did, because he couldn’t afford the plane ticket. She insisted that she could pay for the trip from Portland, Ore., to San Francisco, but he declined.
At 7 a.m. on Friday, May 22, he surprised his parents when he opened the door to their bedroom at home in the Mission and climbed into the bed where his father was sleeping.
“It was a beautiful surprise,” said his father, Carlos Valdiviezo. “But that beautiful surprise turned into a tragedy.”
On Saturday, March 30, 19-year-old Jacob was shot and killed outside his home near 24th and Bryant streets after a man approached him in a car and asked his gang affiliation. The man then shot him three times in the upper body, according to police. Those gunshots woke his father, who came outside to find Jacob lying on the steps of a neighbor’s house. The teen died nearby at San Francisco General Hospital, his father said.
Though San Francisco police are investigating details of the incident, Jacob’s family and neighbors say he was not involved with gangs. He was a good student, studying economics at Lewis and Clark College on a football scholarship.
Jacob Valdiviezo’s death shocked a community and has prompted a series of memorials, including a vigil on Wednesday that was attended by more than 300 of his friends, family and neighbors. Achieve, a local scholarship and mentoring program for motivated low-income students in which he participated, has already established a “Jacob Scholarship” to help graduating seniors with college expenses.
“Everyone knew him,” said Luis Correa, 22, who played football alongside Valdiviezo at Riordan High. “He was an inspiration to everyone.” Valdiviezo was born in San Francisco and attended Archbishop Riordan High School. He helped coach basketball students at St. Peters, a K-8 parochial school on Florida Street that he had attended.
“This was a young man that made it out of the ‘hood, went to college,” said Ricardo Garcia-Acosta of the Community Response Network, a local organization that helps families affected by violence. “That makes it even more heartbreaking.”
A Facebook memorial page for Valdiviezo has received more than 2,200 likes in less than a week. Riordan students and Valdiviezo’s friends from the Mission, Lewis and Clark and Achieve have posted photos of him and of tattoos that several of his friends now have in his memory. The San Francisco 49ers’ outside linebacker, Aldon Smith, tweeted his condolences to Valdiviezo’s family earlier this week.
Valdiviezo’s friends and family remember him as a kid with a bright personality who always lit up the room.
“He would say, ‘Let’s go play with the ball,’ and before you know it he had a whole dodgeball team outside playing,” said Letty Moreno, a family friend.
Valdiviezo was an ardent fan of the 49ers and Giants from an early age and played football for Riordan High all four years, starting on varsity as a senior.
“He wasn’t the fastest, he wasn’t the most agile, but he was always hustle-hustle,” said Correa, a teammate of the 5’11″, 175-pound Valdiviezo. “He wasn’t a starter and became a starter because of the hustle.”
Valdiviezo continued to hustle and display his work ethic at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, said a college football teammate, Charles Krause.
“He was the first one to [practice], the last one to leave, the complete package,” Krause said. “His work ethic is incomparable; always working hard, he was always, ‘Yes sir, no sir,’ very polite, very humble.”
Valdiviezo’s Twitter feed showed him engaged in sports and constantly making jokes with his friends. On Instagram he posted photos of his favorite meal from Peru — where his father is from — and talked incessantly to friends about eating super carne asada burritos from El Faro taqueria.
Before his death, the teen was in the process of lining up an internship in San Francisco and had bought tickets to visit Mexico, where his mother is from.
Valdiviezo’s death once again puts the spotlight on gangs in a neighborhood with a history of them, Garcia-Acosta said.
Jose Escobar, 19, and and Cesar Bermudez, also 19, were shot and killed one week apart in October 2012 — incidents that police reported were gang-related. Earlier that month, Jose Cesar Chuc Mul, a beloved cook in some circles of San Francisco’s Yucateco community, died from injuries sustained during a brawl with a group of men on 16th and Valencia streets.
The number of homicides each year in the Mission has generally declined since the 18 recorded in 2008 — except in 2012, when the number went up to 9 — but gang activity remains a constant concern for the community.
At the sidewalk vigil for Valdiviezo on Bryant Street on Wednesday, more than 300 people crowded the street, prompting police to temporarily block traffic from the area.
After the vigil, the Valdiviezo family went inside to their second-floor apartment. When Jacob’s mother, Margarita, asked to hug anyone who wanted to offer condolences, a line of people quickly formed and stretched out the door.
“We are here because my son brought us together,” Carlos Valdiviezo said to the crowd outside, his voice breaking.
Garcia-Costa hopes that out of the recent tragedy will come a chance to strengthen the community.
“This needs to be a rallying point,” he said. When what appears to be senseless violence happens in the Mission, he said, typically “there are a handful of people that come together. But this time, there are a lot of people here.”
The family is accepting donations for memorial services through PayPal here. In response to the death, the Mission Peace Collaborative will hold a peace march, starting at 7 p.m. on Friday, from the 16th Street BART plaza to the Valdiviezos’ home.
A viewing and rosary for Jacob Valdiviezo will take place at St. Peter’s Church, 1266 Florida St., at 8 p.m. Friday. A funeral mass will be held Saturday at 1 p.m. and will be followed by burial at Holy Cross Cemetery.