Officers Pack Stands To Support Son Of Slain Corporal In First Football Game
Mission, TX – A crowd of law enforcement officers from throughout south Texas rallied together at a seventh-grade football game on Saturday to cheer on the 13-year-old son of Mission Police Corporal Jose “Speedy” Luiz Espericueta.
Cpl. Espericueta, 43, was murdered in the line of duty on June 20, just weeks after he and his fellow officers made a solemn vow to one another, FOX News reported.
“He said, ‘If something happens to one of us, we need to be there for his family and kids,’” Mission Police Officer Javier Lara told the news outlet.
The corporal was looking forward to watching his son, Joaquin, play in his first football game that fall, and his brothers in blue weren’t about to let the event pass without showing their support for the teen.
“We made a promise to the family that we’re gonna be there for special events,” Officer Lara told CNN. “Being the first football game, we gathered agencies from across the valley to let him know that we’re still there, even though his dad’s not.”
When Joaquin looked over to the grandstand on the day of his game, he saw a “sea of law enforcement” officers from the Mission Police Department (MPD), U.S. Customs and Boarder Protection, and the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office, among others, Officer Lara said.
“Nobody hesitated on showing up,” Officer Lara noted.
Joaquin was named as an honorary captain during the game, and officers even accompanied him out to midfield for the ceremonial coin toss, CNN reported.
A helicopter also flew overhead in Cpl. Espericueta’s honor.
“Everybody was willing to go ahead and come out,” Officer Lara told CNN. “Just to support him, just to let him know that we’re going to be there for the rest of his life.”
He said that Joaquin was excited and thankful that his father’s fellow officers took the time to make his first football game so memorable – and the team even came away with a big win.
“He has a huge heart,” Officer Lara said of the teen. “He’s going to be a good young man.”
Dozens of officers also recently accompanied Joaquin to his first day of school, and helped Cpl. Espericueta’s daughter when she moved to San Antonio for college, CNN reported.
They will also be in attendance to watch the fallen corporal’s widow, Bobbie, graduate from college, as she works towards her dream of becoming a school principal, according to FOX News.
“We’ve been there, with the family, every step of the way,” Officer Lara said. “We’re trying to fill the gap.”
Cpl. Espericueta was murdered in the line of duty on June 20 as he was responding to assist a fellow officer.
The fatal altercation began at approximately 8:05 p.m., when a female flagged down an MPD officer in the area of Steward Road and Business 83, Mission Police Chief Robert Dominguez said during a press conference the next morning.
The woman told the officer that her son, 33-year-old Juan Carlos Chapa Jr., had just fired at her vehicle with a handgun, Chief Dominguez explained.
“Within seconds” of being notified about the call by the initial officer, Cpl. Espericueta and other officers arrived in the area to help search for Chapa, the chief said.
The corporal spotted the gunman walking in the 1700-block of East Business Highway 83, and attempted to make contact with him.
“The subject proceeded to run from the officers,” Chief Dominguez told reporters. “As the male subject was running towards the parking lot of Mission Bell Resort, he turned around and began discharging his weapon in the direction of Cpl. Espericueta, striking him.”
The corporal and additional MPD officers at the scene immediately returned fire, and Chapa was “struck multiple times,” the chief said.
Cpl. Espericueta was rushed to McAllen Medical Center in critical condition, and medical personnel tried desperately to save his life for over an hour.
The veteran officer succumbed to his gunshot wounds at 10:05 p.m., Chief Dominguez said.
Meanwhile, Chapa was transported to Rio Grande Regional Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
“Our department has had several occasions to arrest this individual,” the chief noted, adding that Chapa had a “lengthy criminal record.”
Cpl. Espericueta, a 13-year veteran of MPD, served as a traffic collision reconstructionist, patrol officer, commercial vehicle operator, and supervisory corporal during his time with the department.
“Many supervisors don’t go out on calls,” Officer Lara later told FOX News, “but Speedy was one supervisor who felt that he had to go. He didn’t want anything to happen to one of the new officers, because if it did, he felt it would be on him.”