This article originally appeared in the Friday July 5, 2019 issue of the Progress Times.
The memory and legacy of a fallen patrol corporal continues to echo in his family and the city of Mission.
During this week’s city council meeting, the family of Corporal Jose Luis “Speedy” Espericueta, Jr. was presented with a proclamation declaring Oct. 4, 2019 (his birthday) as an official day in his honor. They were also given framed flags from local political leaders.
“The city of Mission honors and commemorates the life of Jose Luis “Speedy Espericueta Jr., who lost his life in the line of duty on June 20,2019 at the age of 44,” Mission Police Chief Robert Dominguez read from the proclamation on Monday. “[He] was a beloved husband, father and public servant for 17 years, 5 months before his ultimate sacrifice.”
Espericueta’s wife Bobbie and children, Brianna and Joaquin, were present along with his parents and extended family members. The proclamation includes Espericueta’s history as a law enforcement officer in the RGV and highlighted his love for his family and passion for traffic enforcement.
“A man of courage, strength and generosity, Jose Luis “Speedy” Espericueta Jr. gave unselfishly to others and his enthusiasm for living each day to the fullest will not be forgotten,” Dominguez said. “[He] was beloved by all who were privileged to share in his life, and leaves behind memories that will be treasured forever by his family and countless friends.”
The city was not the only entity to extend condolences to the family, as several entities and dignitaires sent word.
Deputy City Manager Aida Lerma read a state resolution for Espericueta from Texas House Representatives Bobby Guerra (District 41) and Sergio Munoz Jr. (District 36), who presented the family with a Texas flag (which has flown over the state capitol) honoring Espericueta’s service to Mission and the RGV.
Nicole Hernandez, outreach coordinator for U.S. Representative Henry Cuellar, spoke on his behalf and read a congressional record sent to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Hernandez then presented the family with a United States flag and plaque.
“It is important to remember that law enforcement officials risk their lives every day for our safety,” Hernandez said. “Corporal Espericueta’s heroic life and career embodies the integrity and servitude of a truly influential community leader and law enforcement official.”
Espericueta’s brother-in-law, Victor De Leon, spoke on behalf of his sister and the family, thanking everyone for their support in this time.
“We want to thank you [the city of Mission] and the community at large for your continued support for my sister and hers and Joey’s two kids,” De Leon said. “The amount of support has been beyond generous. Thank you for taking your time today to recognize and honor my brother-in-law.”
BUSINESS AS USUAL
During citizen’s participation, former Mission Associate Municipal Judge Horacio Peña, Jr. stood up to speak (regarding an item in executive session about him) despite not signing up to prior to the meeting. Citizens wishing to speak during the public comments of Mission city council meetings are now expected to sign up with the city secretary prior to the meeting start.
Council members asked City Attorney Gus Martinez if they were required to let Peña speak, and he said while they were not required to, they could allow him the designated three minutes. Peña did not move, and council listened to his comment.
As previously reported by the Progress Times, Peña has been having issues communicating with the city on a potential lawsuit he may be filing for the cash value of approximately 3,800 hours of sick and vacation time throughout over thirty years of working for Mission. He has sent two letters to city leaders in an attempt to receive payment, which would total at about $146,000.
Mission did not extend Peña’s employment contract in April this year – prior to that he was paid $63,000 annually and his last paycheck lists 1,727.49 hours of sick time and 2,101 hours of vacation time.
In May, a correspondence between Peña and then Interim City Attorney Robert Galligan started following Peña’s threat of a lawsuit. Galligan and the city disputed Peña’s status as a full-time or part-time judge and a leave of absence Peña took in 2005.
On Monday this week, Peña accused the city of treating him “like common dirt swept underneath the rug.”
“For 30 years I served as the city judge for the city of Mission, 18 as a presiding judge and 12, 13 as an associate judge,” Peña said during the citizen’s participation. “Never during the period of time that I have served as a city judge have I been treated in such a matter as I have been treated now.”
Peña said that “all he wanted” is for the city to “follow the law.”
“Some of these council members, I know that they practice the politics of political destruction. It’s come to that, especially with me,” Peña said. “I’ve sent you two letters, Mayor, never have I received a response from you or from your administration.”
According to him, he was still salaried and took a pay cut when he returned to work for the city following his leave of absence.
“I don’t know why I’m being treated in such a manner – I expect it from some of the city council members, but from some I don’t,” Peña said. “My son asked me a question, he said to me ‘Dad, after serving and sacrificing 30 years for the city of Mission, how do you feel about that?’ I said I’d do it all over again, because I took an oath to tell the truth, I took an oath to follow the law. I would hope that any of you, at the end of your career – whether it’s with an institution, a corporation, whatever it is, for the 30 years I have served this community – I hope they don’t treat you in such a manner.”
Council convened in executive session at the end of the meeting and Peña waited. When the council returned from executive session, they took no action on the matter.
Because of the potential lawsuit, the city could not give the Progress Times a statement regarding Peña or his allegations.