High school student hit, killed crossing the road in Clayton

CLAYTON, N.C. (WTVD) -- The Clayton community is mourning the death of one of their own after a high school student was hit by a car and killed while crossing the road on his way to school.

No matter who you talk to, the description of 18-year-old Gustavo Alexis Armenta Valadez is always the same: hard-working, caring, well-liked.

"In his senior year of high school, getting ready to graduate -- it's devastating," said Brian Boyd, a parent of a fellow student.

Boyd's daughter went to school with Valadez since they were elementary students and he knew the teen from his trips to Venero's Pizzeria, where staff say he worked six days a week.

In a statement, three employees at the restaurant wrote: "Gustavo was a hard-working young man. He always came in ready to work and willing to help anyone who needed it. Although at times shy and reserved, he made an effort to always greet everyone with a smile on his face. He took great pride in always looking his best! His big heart and presence will be missed. Our hearts go out to his family and friends."

Police received the call around 7 a.m. Thursday about the crash that happened near West Clayton Elementary School, close to the intersection of South Lombard Street and Barber Mill Road.

Clayton Police Chief C. Blair Myhand described it as a tragic accident, saying they don't expect to file any charges against the driver. Officials said they believe she was going the speed limit and paying attention at the time of the crash.

Myhand said the student did not have headphones on and was not using his phone while crossing the street.

"Other than crossing the street in the rain, I don't know that he was doing anything carelessly," he said. "It's just a very tragic accident for the family of the decedent and the driver of the vehicle. Both are very distraught at the sequence of events."

Still, Boyd wants to see changes along that stretch of road.

"Crosswalks would be ideal," he said. "And an active school zone with flashing lights. And they don't have anything active right now."

There is a crosswalk at the nearest intersection about 500 feet away but Boyd said an increased presence by officers could also enhance safety.

"He was a really good sweet guy. Everybody loved him, good kid," his friend Miguel Garcia told ABC11.

"Gustavo will always be remembered at Clayton High School," Principal Bennett Jones said. "He was a true Comet."

Venero's Pizzeria is planning a donation night and is working on the exact details and date. Firefighters who responded to Thursday morning's crash also made a donation toward that effort on Thursday.
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