The parents of a man who shot a police corporal — and died after officers shot back — filed a lawsuit against the city of Mission on Monday, claiming that officers sparked the deadly confrontation by shooting their son “as he was running away and without any provocation.”
Josie and Juan Chapa filed the lawsuit on behalf of their son, Juan Carlos Chapa, who died on June 20, 2019, after shooting police Cpl. Jose Luis “Speedy” Espericueta.
The lawsuit claims police officers violated Juan Carlos Chapa’s civil rights by using “excessive force” against him and by acting with “deliberate indifference” after they shot him.
“Quite frankly, they still have some questions about how all of this went down,” said attorney Christopher J. Gale of Corpus Christi, who represents the Chapa family.
City Attorney Gus Martinez said Mission doesn’t comment on pending litigation.
Nearly two years after the shooting, basic facts about what happened remain in dispute.
According to the city, a woman flagged down a police officer “after her son reportedly shot at her car with a handgun.”
Espericueta spotted Juan Carlos Chapa and attempted to make contact with him.
“Chapa ran from the scene, turned and began shooting, striking Espericueta,” according to a summary of the incident released by the city on June 21, 2019. “Cpl. Espericueta then returned fire as did other arriving officers.”
Juan Carlos Chapa and Espericueta both suffered fatal injuries.
“The suspect was struck several times in the exchange. He was transported to the hospital where he died,” according to information released by the city. “Cpl. Espericueta succumbed to his injuries at 10:05 p.m. after being transported to McAllen Medical Center.”
The lawsuit, however, tells a different story about the shooting.
According to the lawsuit, Juan Carlos Chapa called his mother “to come and
pay for a coke at the Auto Zone down the street.”
When she arrived at the Auto Zone to pay for the drink, Josie Chapa noticed that her son appeared to be suffering from mental health problems.
“As they were leaving and based on the manner in which Juan Carlos was behaving, Mrs. Chapa left in her vehicle and instructed Juan Carlos to walk home,” according to the lawsuit. “A few blocks away, Mrs. Chapa noticed an officer parked on the side of the road and stopped to speak to him, informing him that her son was in distress, needed some help and where Juan Carlos was walking.”
According to the lawsuit, officers chased down Juan Carlos Chapa and shot at him without provocation.
“At some point thereafter, more gun fire was had (both by the officers and perhaps Juan Carlos – following him being shot as he fled an alleged ‘detention’),” according to the lawsuit. “As a result of same, both Juan Carlos and an officer lost their lives.”
Gale said the Chapa family isn’t certain that Juan Carlos Chapa actually shot Espericueta.
“I’m not so sure how he got shot,” Gale said. “And I’m not necessarily sure it was by Juan Chapa.”
The family is also concerned that Juan Carlos Chapa didn’t receive prompt medical attention after the shooting.
“Why was he laying there for so long before he was tended to?” Gale said.
Josie and Juan Chapa filed a separate lawsuit against Mission in October, asking the city to release documents from the investigation.
State District Judge Fernando Macias allowed the Chapa family to view the documents, but he also signed a protective order that prohibited the family from disclosing the information.