MISSION — Police officers from around the country came together here Tuesday to bid farewell to a man most had probably never met before — their brother Cpl. Jose Luis “Speedy” Espericueta who was killed in the line of duty last week.
The auditorium at Palm Valley Church, which can seat up to 2,500 people, reached standing-room only with law enforcement officers from around the state and around the country — including members of the community — filling the available seats.
A video slideshow played before the service began, sharing moments of Espericueta’s life with the public.
There he was on vacation, then at a shooting range with friends, walking along the beach with his children, at a restaurant, at a wedding, at a wine tasting, ringing in the New Year, relaxing at a barbecue — glimpses that provided far from the full picture of who he was to those who didn’t know him but, to those who did, gave a reminder of moments they had with him before his life was cut short.
Espericueta died Thursday night after responding to a call of an armed man. The suspect fled when Espericueta attempted to make contact but then turned around and began firing. In the ensuing exchange of gunfire between the suspect and the responding officers both Espericueta and the suspect were fatally wounded.
In the days that followed, the city of Mission, the police department, and Espericueta’s family received a flood of support from police departments around the country — support that manifested itself in the hundreds who flew in to pay their respects Tuesday.
Though a sorrowful event, the service had touches of humor throughout.
At the start of his eulogy delivered on behalf of the family, Victor de Leon — Espericueta’s brother-in-law — said his sister, Espericueta’s wife, gave him some instructions.
“She said, ‘Try not to be too serious because Joey would not like that,’” De Leon said.
He noted that while Espericueta loved his job, he also enjoyed his “side hustle” as a TV star on shows like “Border Wars” on National Geographic and “Live PD” on the A&E network.
“But trust me, when it comes to Joey, there isn’t a shortage of accomplishments that I can talk about,” he said. “But despite his national recognition, he remained humble and always completed his job with honor, integrity and service.”
But then De Leon addressed the main question — “Who was Joey?”
“Joey was a man of many, many talents,” he said. “He was the only person I knew that could make wearing Crocs cool and faithfully wore cargo shorts everywhere he went, no matter the occasion.”
He was a Dallas Cowboys fanatic and self-proclaimed master barbecuer, De Leon said. But he was also a son, a brother, father to two kids and a husband.
De Leon said he used to worry about what would happen to Espericueta’s loved ones if the current situation were to become a reality but with the outpouring of support from the community, he appeared assured that they would be taken care of.
“If wealth could be measured in tamales, we’d be millionaires,” De Leon said. “But thank you. Please keep them coming.”
Amongst those pledging their support to Espericueta’s family were his friends at the Mission police department including Officers Javier Lara, Tomas Garces, and Cpl. Hiram Flores.
The three took the stage as Lara delivered his account of who Espericueta was.
“Who was 350?” Lara said. “Who was Speedy as we know him?”
To them, Espericueta was the friend who had a passion for healthy eating, the tortilla flipper for their barbecue team dubbed “The Smoking Mafia,” and their colleague who loved his job.
Just a week ago, Lara said the four of them discussed what they would do if something happened to them.
“If something ever happens to one of us, we need to be there for the family,” Lara recounted Espericueta of telling him. They agreed.
Speaking directly to Espericueta’s wife and children on Tuesday, Lara vowed to look after them, fulfilling the promise they made to each other a week ago to the day.
Mission Police Chief Robert Dominguez also assured Espericueta’s family that the department would always provide support and talked about who Espericueta was to him.
“I have always told everyone that I have two children at home and 206 at work,” Dominguez said. “Speedy was a great son and I will miss him dearly.”
“When God created him, he blended in the right mixture of humility and compassion,” Dominguez added. “These qualities molded him into a true public servant and assisted him in becoming the great leader that he was for our department.”
Following the chief’s remarks, the force honored him with a police tribute that included a rifle salute and taps, the bugle call for lights out.
Espericueta was many things to different people but one thing that everyone seemed to agree on was that he was a hero who lay down his life protecting his community.
“Thursday night, Cpl. Jose Espericueta — in speedy-like fashion — answered the call for help,” said Pastor Jerrell Jobe. “Today we remember his life and we honor his sacrifice.”