Mission police officer killed in line of duty

MISSION — During a tearful news conference, flanked by law enforcement officers from several agencies throughout the Rio Grande Valley, Mission Police Chief Robert Dominguez revealed new details about the events that led to the death of one of their own, Cpl. Jose Luis Espericueta.

Espericueta, a 13-year veteran affectionately referred to as “Speedy,” was killed last Thursday night after responding to reports of an armed man.

At approximately 8:05 p.m., a woman reported that her son, 33-year-old Juan Carlos Chapa Jr., had fired at her car with a handgun near the corner of Stewart Road and U.S. Business 83.

Espericueta arrived on the scene to assist in locating Chapa who was seen walking near the 1700 block of East Business Highway 83.

When Espericueta attempted to make contact, Chapa fled and simultaneously began firing his gun at Espericueta, hitting him.

Chapa, who had previous run-ins with law enforcement, continued to exchange gunfire with several officers and was also hit several times.

Espericueta was transported to McAllen Medical Center where he was pronounced dead at 10:05 p.m. He’s the first Mission police officer killed in the line of duty since 1978, according to Dominguez.

Chapa was pronounced dead at Rio Grande Regional Hospital, though a time of death was not provided.

Last Friday, U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, D-McAllen, offered condolences to the offi cer’s family.

“Our community was kept safe by an officer who paid the ultimate price for us. We must do all we can to prevent senseless violence and crime in our communities and support our men and women on the force,” Gonzalez said in a prepared statement.

Dominguez had been in Austin when the shooting occurred — there to attend an awards ceremony held by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement to honor another one of his officers — but was flown in to be with Espericueta’s family last Thursday night.

Mission Mayor Armando O’Caña, who remained in Austin, expressed condolences and support for the family in a prepared statement issued last Friday.

“Our hearts are with the offi cer’s family,” O’Caña stated. “We cannot even begin to understand the pain his family and our law enforcement community is experiencing right now.”

“There are no words to convey the sadness we feel or the depth of how heartbroken we are,” O’Caña further stated. “It is a sad day in Mission. The city of Mission is fully standing by the family during this tragedy.”

Fighting back tears during the conference last Friday morning, Chief Dominguez thanked his law enforcement colleagues for their presence and their support.

“It is this type of relationship that we have as police officers that say a lot of what we do for our communities,” he said.

Espericueta began his career with the Mission Police Department as a patrol officer, then in traffic accident reconstructionist, a commercial motor vehicle operator and as a patrol corporal, according to Dominguez. Prior to that, he served in the San Benito Police Department.

In 2016, he was awarded the Meritorious Service Award by the department for rescuing an elderly man from a burning house.

Espericueta also appeared on the television show “Live PD” on the A& E network, which honored Espericueta with an “End of Watch” tribute during Friday night’s episode.

“Our officers as well as everyone in the line of duty work in an incredibly difficult environment,” Dominguez said. “At times, as we see today, this environment can be extremely dangerous.”

Chapa had a criminal history of non-violent offenses dating back 16 years, according to Hidalgo County jail records.

Beginning in 2003, when Chapa was 17 years old, officers arrested him in Mission after finding him in possession of Clonazepam and a small amount of marijuana, class A and B misdemeanor charges, respectively. These charges were deferred and he was given 100 hours of community service, Hidalgo County court records show.

Chapa — who throughout the years was subsequently arrested and charged eight more times from 2007 through just this March, when Mission police arrested him for resisting arrest — faced charges like theft, possession of marijuana, criminal trespassing and driving while intoxicated, records show.

Last year, in May 2018, Chapa’s mother, Josie Chapa, called police after her son entered her home without her permission.

The complaint filed against Chapa states that he had broken down the door at her residence in an attempt to enter, causing at least $100 worth of damage to the property, the document read. He ultimately pleaded guilty to the criminal mischief charge and was sentenced to 18 days in jail.

Chapa’s charges were all misdemeanors, the highest being a class A misdemeanor charge.

The Texas Rangers will continue to investigate the shooting, the city said in the statement issued Friday.

“We are devastated,” City Manager Randy Perez stated. “Cpl. Espericueta lost his life protecting our community. There is no way to explain the loss we feel.”

“We are praying fiercely as a community and our hearts are with his family and all our Mission PD family,” he added. “This is a senseless act and he died a hero.”

Services for Espericueta were announced Friday, with public visitation scheduled from 5 to 9 p.m. Monday at Palm Valley Church, located at 1720 E. Griffin Parkway in Mission. The funeral mass, also at the church, is set for 10 a.m. Tuesday.

Monitor staff writer Lorenzo Zazueta-Castro contributed to this report.