BY CELESTE GRACIA, STAFF WRITER
The American flag could be seen from a mile away in every direction, billowing in the wind across the street from the Legacy Funeral Home. Law enforcement vehicles lined up Jackson Road in Edinburg as officers and family prepared for the procession of fallen Mission police Cpl. Jose Luis “Speedy” Espericueta.
As the casket was gently lifted and placed in a white hearse, the only sound was the wind. Officers held a solemn salute. Family and friends sobbed quietly.
Various law enforcement agencies, including the Texas Department of Public Safety, U.S. Customs and Border Protection in addition to Border Patrol, as well as the Falfurrias and Houston police departments were among those in the procession. The escort shut down U.S. 281 from Trenton Road southbound to Bryan Road as they traveled to Palm Valley Church in Mission.
Meanwhile in Mission, citizens, many with flags, gathered on the sidewalk in front of the church to pay respect.
Grace Cordova, 47, has lived in Mission for 24 years. Considering her husband works in law enforcement, she said she can only imagine what Espericueta’s family is going through.
“ It just hurts,” Cordova said as she stood with her husband. “We feel like it’s the right thing to be here.”
Leonel Peña, 15, sees himself as a future firefighter. He said he was in Austin when his brother told him the news of the officer’s death. Although he didn’t know Espericueta personally, Peña said he still feels connected to him through the law enforcement community.
“ I actually cried in the car,” Peña said, referring to when he traveled back from Austin. “It affects everyone in this town. It’s great to see the whole community here showing support.”
When the procession passed by in Mission, silence fell upon the citizens. Men took off their hats and pressed it against their chest. Women held their right hand over their hearts. Most wiped away tears.
Espericueta was shot and killed Thursday responding to a report of an armed man in the vicinity of Steward Road and Business 83. An 18-year law enforcement veteran, Espericueta’s more notable professional accomplishments included rescuing an elderly man from a burning house, saving two young children who were locked in a car, and apprehending multiple armed suspects in a home invasion incident, according to his obituary posted on Legacy’s website.
He also appeared on A&E’s Live PD and National Geographic’s Border Wars. He received several accolades during his service with the San Benito Police Department, including Police Officer of the Year in December 2004.
His funeral service will be held Tuesday starting at 10 a.m. at Palm Valley Church. Doors open at 9 a.m.