UPDATE: SF State will award Stephen Guillermo a posthumous degree in international relations this summer, the University announced in a press release. Guillermo, who was shot and killed entering the wrong apartment May 3, was just a few units away from receiving his degree, according to Mary Ann Begley in the press release.

Stephen Guillermo, an SF State student who was passionate about world affairs and dedicated to financially supporting his family, died May 3 when he mistakenly entered his neighbor’s apartment in the South of Market building where he lived in San Francisco. He was 26.

Photo courtesy of Sownai Saetern / Special to Xpress

According to his family, Guillermo had been drinking when he returned to his apartment building on the 900 block of Mission street the night of the incident. Instead of reaching the fifth floor where he lived, he accidentally got off on the third floor where he tried to enter 68-year-old Amisi Kachepa’s apartment.

Friends and family remember him as an affectionate and soft spoken person.

“The best way to describe him was that he was always willing to take care of people. He was always smiling and in every picture he had that same smile,” said his brother Marc Guillermo.

Family members stressed that the circumstances behind the incident that claimed his life did not reflect Stephen’s unaggressive personality and any violence would be uncharacteristic of him.

“Stephen was a gentle, kind, loving, almost childlike character. The cliche is that ‘he really couldn’t harm a fly,’ but he really didn’t have that kind of instinct in him,” said his cousin Emil Guillermo.

At the age of eight, Stephen and his family emigrated from the Philippines to the United States seeking financial stability.

Stephen attended City College of San Francisco before transferring to SF State where he was slated to graduate in June with a bachelor’s degree in international relations. He would have been the first in his immediate family to receive a college degree.

Stephen loved to travel. He often enjoyed taking road trips and took an interest in learning about the politics of foreign countries. He had aspirations to work as a diplomat at an international embassy, family and friends said.

SF State professor and Chair of the International Relations department Sophie Clavier remembers Stephen became enamored with the material in her introduction to international relations class. Clavier was Stephen’s educational advisor who helped him decide what classes to take at the University.

“He was always making sure that he was on the right path and doing the right thing in school. You wish everybody was a student a like him,” Clavier said.

A few years ago Stephen came to Clavier for help with school when he was struggling with personal problems and helped devise a curriculum to help him, she said. While Clavier never found out what problems he was struggling with, she speculates it may have been because of his father’s death.

When Stephen father died in 2010 after a battle with cancer, he became the primary source of his family’s income by taking on two jobs and still attending school full-time.

“My brother was a second father of mine when my dad passed away. He didn’t ask any questions or complain he just stepped up to the plate,” said his brother Marc Guillermo.

Stephen was an avid baseball fan. His favorite team was the San Francisco Giants and often attended games during their season.

On Monday Stephen was honored at AT&T Park during Filipino Heritage night by the Giants and a photo of him was shown on the scoreboard that said “Filipino American, Giants fan, taken too soon.”

The Guillermo family is seeking to have the University allow him to graduate and receive his degree posthumously to honor his death.

“If he could be given the degree it would a tremendous acknowledgement of one of his greatest achievements. It would be a kind of justice, not the ultimate justice that we seek, but it would be a very consoling gesture from a a part of the University,” Emil Guillermo said.

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Chris Sanchez

Chris Sanchez