OGDEN -- When Jason Valdez posted seven status updates on his Facebook page about his involvement in a standoff with the Ogden Police Department last weekend, he intended to inform just his 165 friends. But because of his liberal privacy settings, anyone could view his page and leave comments -- which resulted in tens of thousands of comments, mostly condemning the man who ended the standoff by shooting himself in the chest.
Valdez's cousin, Joyce Nevarez, said those comments are hurtful to family members, who are trying to deal with last weekend's events.
"I would really love the public to stop posting these ugly, ugly things about him because they don't know the person he really was," she said.
"Not only are we having to deal with Jason now, we have to deal with the ugliness of these people."
Since Valdez posted his first update declaring he was in a standoff with Ogden police, his Facebook site had garnered 20,548 comments as of Friday morning. Some are from family and friends, but most are from random people who heard of his story after his status updates became national news.
Several of those who post most frequently on Valdez's page even created a group Friday called the "Virtual Lynch Mob" that contained photos and stories about Valdez, along with mocking statements.
Throughout his Facebook page, people from across the globe have left comments wishing for his death, asking him to leave the country and attacking his friends and family.
"We're devastated by this stuff being posted on Facebook," Nevarez said.
"One of the comments posted was, 'This gangbanger should have just put the gun in his mouth.' What gangbanger do you know who has taken his life like that?
"They claim we are illegals. We are from here. They've said they need to line us (his family) all up and put a bullet in our heads."
Most of the assumptions made by the public are untrue, Nevarez said. Valdez didn't come from a broken home; he was raised by his parents and grandparents. He is a kind, generous person, she said, who fell into a lifestyle he felt he couldn't escape.
Nevarez said Valdez rarely talked with his family about gang life -- police say he was a member of the Nortenos gang -- or his drug involvement. Everyone in the family knew he was involved with drugs, she said, but she never knew Valdez to commit crimes for the gang.
"We really never talked about it. He never brought it to us. We knew, but he never brought it to us," she said.
"The conversations we've had with him is that he didn't like the life that he had chosen. He was so far into it, I don't know if there was a way out for Jason."
Nevarez said she believes this feeling of no escape is what led Valdez to shoot himself after the overnight standoff.
She said she believes Valdez never intended to hurt the police or the woman police say he held hostage, but instead was trying to hurt only himself.
"Jason was self-destructing," she said. "Jason was there to hurt himself and no one else. He was tired of living the life that he had chosen."
Nevarez said there is no doubt that Valdez made bad decisions in his life, but the way he has been portrayed in the media and on the Internet is nothing like the man he is.
She said Valdez is troubled and she hopes he can find peace.
Valdez is still in serious condition and being treated at a local hospital, Nevarez said.
"My prayers for Jason are for God to take him because of what he is facing," she said. "Jason has lived with demons for quite awhile."