The Mission police department held a remembrance walk and ceremony for victims of crime and their family members on Thursday.
National Crime Victims’ Rights Week is from April 18th-24th. It’s a week for those affected to show support for one another and gain support and resources from their community.
This year it was held at the Mission PD courtyard. A walk honoring the victims began at 5 p.m. with a special ceremony after at 5:30 p.m. A butterfly release was also part of the event to honor the victims along with free food, entertainment and health screenings.
The ceremony began with an invocation from Pastor Mike Govan from BT Edinburg who recited a prayer. Mayor Armando O’Caña attended and spoke as well.
“My heart is with all of you,” O’Caña said. “On behalf of the city of Mission, our city employees, the council and the police department, we thank you for your presence today. We honor our victims of violence. We cannot allow this to keep happening in our communities. In Mission, we do not want any more families separated by violence.”
Trees hung photos of the families loved ones’ whose lives were taken by them due to violence.
“We will continue working together so that those that are responsible will pay for their crimes,” O’Caña said. “There are not enough words to explain what you have to live and what you have to go through. Thank you for keeping the memory of your loved ones alive and may God bless all of us and send us to serve him well.”
Chief of police Robert Dominguez was the next speaker.
“It’s important to us because you all matter as survivors, as victims,” Dominguez said. “For all of us, in our lifetime, we’ve lost loved ones. We know what the hurt is of losing a loved one. And it’s more tragic to lose someone that you love to a senseless act. To a homicide, or a drunk driver. Something that obviously should’ve never happened in the first place. What’s important is that we stick together. As our world evolves, unfortunately crime evolves as well. On behalf of all the departments represented here today, we stand united to support you. We’re a phone call away.”
“I do feel different, I feel like a victim of a crime as well,” Dominguez said. “Because I lost a great son. And I call him a son, because to me, I’m the father of every individual police officer. And on June 20th, 2019, I lost a son. Corporal Jose Luis “Speedy” Espericueta. He was a victim. He was murdered. And the loss is profound.”
Corporal Jose Luis “Speedy” Espericueta was killed while serving his city of Mission, in the line of duty.
“It is an honor for me to have you here joining us today to honor the lives of our victims and to remember the very reason that the crime victims’ assistance program exists,” said Isela Marin, Mission PD crime victim liaison.
“And that is to provide support and services to the victims of crime and their families,” Marin said. “Without a doubt, we are here today to stand and be grateful. For us, the crime victims’ program is committed as ever to comfort the suffering of those hurt and affected by crime. Remember, those we love don’t go away. They walk beside us every day.”
Bobbie Espericueta, Speedy’s wife, was the keynote speaker for the ceremony.
“None of us here today asked to be united by pain or tragedy,” Espericueta said. “To be a part of a family that no one wants to be a part of. But here we are, not as victims, but as survivors. My husband Joey, or Speedy, as he was known here, was a police officer for 17 years. 13 of those years he served here with the Mission police department. He loved what he did, he had a passion for it. As difficult as it was for me to accept his line of work, I supported him because he enjoyed helping others and keeping the community safe. Never could I have imagined that he wouldn’t be with us minutes after getting off the phone with him. On June 20th, 2019. That was his last call and the start of our nightmare.
Joey was tragically killed that day in the line of duty, doing what he loved. And like many of you here, it still hurts, and we continue to feel our loved ones’ absence. I trust that I’m not alone when I say sometimes we have our bad days and we have better days. Just the other day my daughter and I took my son Joaquin out for a drive just to practice. Something that Joey and I did together. And just like that, it hit me. He’s not here. Later this month our daughter will be graduating from college. Something he looked forward to and bragged to everyone about. And I can’t help but smile knowing that he would be so proud of her.
Moments like these are a constant reminder that our loved ones are not here. Until then, we will have to continue to cherish our loved ones’ memory, carry on their legacy, and be their voice. Not having our loved ones here with us is difficult, but events like this, family and friends, ease that pain. This is part of the reason I started the Speedy Memorial Foundation. To give back to the community Joey loved that has been so kind to my family and I. The foundation has allowed me to turn something terrible into doing good. Through the foundation, I’m able to support the children of law enforcement officers and provide scholarships for them.
I wonder at times where I find the strength to move on. And I truly believe it’s through God’s grace. My journey here is very similar to many of yours. It changed us but it doesn’t define us. We get to choose how we carry our loved ones’ memory and prevent others from having to experience the same pain we have. Thank you, and God bless.”
Melissa Espinoza, sister of Jolissa “Coco” Rangel who was killed in 2013, concluded the ceremony by sharing words about her sister and reading a butterfly poem. All of the victims’ families walked to the front of the stage to release their own butterfly.
“As you release this butterfly in honor of me, know that I am with you and will always be. Holding hands, say a prayer, close your eyes, and see me there. Also, you may feel if it’s torn apart, please know that I will be forever in your heart. Now fly away butterfly, as high as you can go. I’m right there with you, more than you know.”