MISSION — A true hero. Genuine. Kind. Loved. Knowledgeable. An all-around good person.
That’s how Cpl. Jose Luis “Speedy” Espericueta of the Mission Police Department will be remembered. He was honored Saturday evening in a tribute run in Mission, where at least 100 people ran about a mile from the police department to Business 83 and Stewart Road, the scene where Espericueta was gunned down and killed in the line of duty Thursday night.
Sgt. David Garcia, Espericueta’s supervisor, held back tears as he expressed gratitude for the “tremendous outpouring” of support Saturday.
“It’s incredible, the community … came out showing unity,” Garcia said. “(Espericueta) led by example and he’d take every call that was available. He took charge and that’s exactly what happened this week. He was a man of action.”
A 13-year-veteran of the Mission Police Department, Garcia worked closely with Espericueta during his entire tenure there.
“He wanted to be the change he wanted to see and he worked at doing that every day,” Victor De Leon, Espericueta’s brother-in-law, said, speaking on behalf of the Espericuta family. “He was born to patrol the community. He absolutely loved doing what he did.”
Espericueta graduated from McAllen High School in 1993 and began his law enforcement career with the San Benito Police Department in 2001.
“This man was a true hero,” SBPD officer Guadalupe Andrade remembered. “So many of us knew him and worked with him. He was such a wonderful person — very easy to get along with.”
On patrol shifts, Andrade, one of the first women to join the force in San Benito, remembers Espericueta would help her deal with disrespect toward female officers.
“He always jumped in and handled the suspect being rude to me,” Andrade stated in a Facebook message. “He always looked out for me and always helped me at my calls. It was a blessing having him around.”
Garcia shared similar sentiments.
“It was rare that you would not catch him without a smile on his face,” Garcia said.
De Leon said he was a fanatic of the Dallas Cowboys, so much so that he bought a Jumbotron to watch the Cowboy games and owned lots of Cowboy memorabilia.
“He was religious about games for the Dallas Cowboys,” De Leon said. “That was his team. That was his sport.”
De Leon said Espericueta also loved to barbecue.
“He loved to entertain and to host,” De Leon said. “His wings were pretty spectacular.”
Watch: We’re at a tribute run for Mission Police Cpl. Jose Luis Espericueta.
Posted by The Monitor on Saturday, June 22, 2019
Mission police detective Tomas Garces Jr. worked closely with Espericueta for 12 years. Over time, the two became good friends. They and a group of other officers formed the Smoking Mafia BBQ team. Together they competed in and won different competitions, Garces recalled.
“We were best friends,” Garces said. “We did everything together.”
Espericueta was also the field training officer for Garces when he started working.
“He taught me how to be a cop,” Garces said. “He was real big on helping people. He talked a lot about the spirit of the law.”
Garces said the two could speak about anything and everything, from work to family to advice. When asked what he wants Espericueta to be remembered for, Garces said “his legacy.”
“On always doing the right thing,” Garces said. “He was a straight-up, outstanding guy. Whether good or bad, he would speak his mind.”
He also said that family was Espericueta’s foundation.
“Everything he did, he did for his devotion to his family,” Garces said. “Family was his main orientation for him.”
De Leon said the Espericueta family would travel together every year. The family often took summer trips and visited places such as Hawaii, New York City and Washington, where De Leon lives.
“I can’t emphasize enough how inseparable they were,” De Leon said. “He had this presence. He had this boisterous laugh. There’s that void now. This is a huge loss.”
Garcia said Espericueta was an all-around good person.
“You wouldn’t find anybody saying anything bad about him because there wasn’t anything bad to say,” Garcia said.
In the crowd who ran to pay tribute for Espericueta was Customs and Border Patrol Explorer Post 2304, a small volunteer group of young men and women who receive practical training at the Anzalduas International Bridge. Chief Deputy Lauren Fuentes, 18, said she and her group were there to show support for the fallen officer.
“We all belong to the law enforcement family,” Fuentes said. “We are one team. When one of our brothers fall, we all fall together.”
Mission citizen Anwar Contreras, 32, said that although he didn’t know Espericueta personally, he would watch the Live PD show whenever Espericueta was featured on there. When he heard the news, he immediately recognized him. He also said he lives very close to the scene where Espericueta was shot.
“It was pretty crazy,” Contreras said. “We actually heard the shots. We saw the helicopters hovering on top of our house.”
At the end of the run, people gathered together for hugs and dropped to their knees to pray. Tears blended with beads of sweat. Still with watery eyes, Garcia called the event a success.
“I’m sure [Espericueta] saw and I’m sure he had a big smile on his face,” Garcia said.
The RGV 100 Club, a nonprofit organization that provides assistance to officers who are killed in the line of duty, is currently raising funds for the Espericueta family. According to a tweet, all donations will be given directly to the family.
Public visitation for Espericueta will be held at Palm Valley Church in Mission from 5 to 9 p.m. Monday. The funeral Mass, scheduled for 10 a.m. Tuesday, will also be held at the church.
Fernando Del Valle of the Valley Morning Star contributed to this report.