A playing field turned into a sea of blue as friends honored their fellow police officer, Mission, Texas Police Cpl. Jose “Speedy” Espericueta, at his son’s first football game.
Espericueta was a decorated officer, having received a Meritorious Service Award after saving an elderly woman from a burning house. He had also been featured on A&E’s “Live PD,” a show that follows officers as they work. Because his fellow officers had difficulty pronouncing his last name, he was bestowed the nickname Speedy because of how fast Espericueta responded to calls.
In June, Espericueta addressed an altercation between a mother and son. When he arrived at the scene, he saw the son, Juan Carlos Chapa Jr., who had fired at her mother’s car. As Espericueta approached, Chapa started running, but then exchanged gun fire with Espericueta and other police officers. Espericueta was hit and sadly did not survive his wounds.
There was tremendous outpouring of grief at his death, particularly since the Mission Police Department hadn’t lost an officer since December 1978. The community decided to honor him by attending his son Joaquin’s first 7th grade football game. Police Officer Javier Lara recalled, “The one thing he couldn’t stop talking about was Joaquin starting football this year.”
On that day, police officers and other law enforcement officials from the Mission Police Department, Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office, and US Customs and Border Protection across south Texas took over the stands at the Cathey Middle School in McAllen to watch Joaquin play.
There was a lot of fanfare to the event, including a ceremonial coin flip at midfield by Joaquin and several police officers, and a helicopter flyby in Espericueta’s honor. The gathering was organized by Lara, who said, “Everybody was willing to go ahead and come out. Just to support him, just to let him know that we’re going to be there for the rest of his life.”
The officers also named Joaquin an honorary captain. “We made a promise to the family that we’re gonna be there for special events,” Lara said. “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.”
Most probably inspired by the support of the police officers, Joaquin played well and contributed to a big win by his team. “He was really excited. He was real thankful about us being here for him,” Lara said. “He has a huge heart. He’s going to be a good young man.”
This wasn’t the first, and likely not the last, time that the police officers empathized with the Espericueta family. Months earlier, they helped welcome Joaquin to his first day of school, while others assisted his sister in moving to San Antonio for her education.
When Espericueta died, the police officers had declared, “We’re all in this together.” While the community can never take his place, these incredible acts of kindness are sure to at least ease the family’s pain of losing their father.