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The loss of Corporal Jose Luis “Speedy” Espericueta, Jr. is still felt by his family and the Mission community one year later.
On June 20, 2019, Espericueta was struck by gunfire while responding to a call for service. His sacrifice reverberated across the Rio Grande Valley, and the city of Mission has held several ceremonies and tributes to ensure his memory is honored.
Last weekend on Saturday, June 20, 2020 at 8:05 p.m. the Mission Police Department held a celebration of life and lit the city blue by covering their headlights with blue painter’s tape. The parking lot was filled with residents in the Mission community, who also covered their headlights with blue tape to highlight Speedy’s legacy.
Because of COVID-19, restrictions were implemented. Participants were asked to remain in their vehicle throughout the service, the entrance was closed at 7:55 p.m. to minimize contact, all guests were asked to wear a face covering if they needed to step out of their vehicle and two candles were provided for each vehicle attending the event.
For those hoping to participate that were limited by the coronavirus pandemic, the service was carried live by KTEX 100.3 FM on the air and on their Facebook page, as well as the city of Mission Facebook page.
Espericueta’s family, including his wife Roberta “Bobbie” De Leon, daughter Brianna and son Joaquin all participated in the celebration of life. Joaquin led the Pledge of Allegiance, and Brianna spoke on the impact of their father.
She expanded on all the things she missed about her dad, and how she wished she had told him more how proud she was while he was here.
“A special gift in my life are the 19 years that I did have with him, because as brief as they were, my dad showed me unconditional love,” Espericueta said. “He taught me a sense of duty, and he gave me a reason to keep working hard, because every day I want to make my father proud.”
Bobbie also spoke about her husband Speedy, and how not a moment goes by that she doesn’t think about the night of June 20, 2019.
“My lifelong fear of being a police officer’s wife came true – I always feared it, but never thought it would become a reality,” De Leon said. “Seeing the sacrifice that Joey made in his desire to serve and protect, it’s difficult to watch what’s going on today and not be impacted by it.”
De Leon said her husband loved his job, and took pride in dedicating 17 years of his life to helping others.
“Through Joey’s passion and determination, he became a stronger leader and a mentor to many,” De Leon said. “He was always eager to learn more and most importantly, he had compassion.”
De Leon recalled her feelings of fear when she would see her husband wear his bullet-proof vest, and when Espericueta would call her to let her know they were about to conduct a raid. She said he would tell her he loved her over the phone.
“Joey died doing what he loved. As I have reflected on this, it is hard for me to understand, but I’ve come to realize that Joey was a natural-born warrior and protector,” De Leon said. “I am still heartbroken, yet I am also grateful to God for allowing us 26 years together, beyond blessed to have two beautiful children.”
De Leon said she misses her husband, and while their marriage wasn’t perfect, their last five years together were the happiest.
“They say that time will heal all wounds, but I disagree,” De Leon said. “I don’t know that there is healing from this, but rather making peace and coming to terms with it. I know God is guiding us, and I know Joey is with us.”
Roxanne Lerma, the Media Relations Director for the city of Mission, started off the service by saying “this is for Speedy.”
“Our community was forever changed,” Lerma said on the loss of Espericueta. “This evening is a solemn time, in that we are remembering a hometown hero who made the ultimate sacrifice for our community.”
Lerma said it was also a celebration, as he showed everyone the unity found throughout the area.
“He left a legacy behind,” Lerma said. “And he taught us an important lesson: life is short, embrace those that are around you.”
Mission Mayor Armando O’caña said he found it difficult to find the appropriate words to honor Espericueta.
“Today we have an angel in heaven,” O’caña said. “This is for Speedy, welcome.”
Police Chief Robert Dominguez spoke on how the department has kept Espericueta in their hearts.
“Although there is no speech, ceremony, tribute or salute that can ease your pain, tonight we join in this candlelight vigil to honor Speedy’s courage, and to fill your hearts with our gratitude,” Dominguez said to the Espericueta family. “It is hard to believe a year has passed since the tragic loss of Speedy.”
Dominguez said he and the officers have all remembered Espericueta throughout the last year, laughing and crying along the way.
“We remember the man, the husband, the dad, the son, the brother, the friend that he was and will always be,” Dominguez said. “Just as important, we remember Speedy the public servant.”
The police chief noted Espericueta served with pride, honor, compassion and humility.
“He exemplified a true and dedicated public servant,” Dominguez said. “Speedy was always at the forefront of new and innovative ideas in his field. With his big warm smile, he always had this calming effect on people.”
Dominguez expanded on this attribute of Espericueta’s, saying the fallen officer always had a way of turning stressful situations into peaceful ones. According to Dominguez, all officers should strive for that quality.
“Throughout the year, the Mission Police Department was committed to the memory of our friend, and to taking care of his family in many ways,” Dominguez said, giving details of each special event they held in his memory over the last year. “I would like to take this opportunity to thank our community for your help in forging this great relationship with the Espericueta family and our family at the Mission Police Department.”
The service concluded with a moment where all visitors and law enforcement officers turned on their blue lights and held lit candles in honor of Espericueta.
“The candles we light tonight will not burn for long, but they remind us that we must be keepers of the flame once carried by our fallen hero,” Dominguez said, noting they will always remain committed to the Espericueta family, as well as the families of fallen Mission police Officers Avila and Velasco. “Time is ever-evolving, and over time we commit ourselves to the memory of our hero.”