In early June, Corporal Jose Espericueta, Jr., known more commonly as “Speedy,” turned serious and asked his closest friends at the Mission Police Department to make him and one another a promise.
“He said, ‘If something happens to one of us, we need to be there for his family and kids,’” recalled Javier Lara, one of the Texas officers in the tight-knit group of four friends.
And there was another grim request.
Espericueta, who was 43, had lost about 60 pounds on the keto diet, and said he needed a new photo of his slimmer self because, if he died, the photo shown at his funeral would be outdated.
Just a few weeks after the ominous talk, Espericueta joined in the effort to track down a man, Juan Carlos Chapa, whose mother had told police he'd fired a gun at her car.
Espericueta, who was in the area, drove to the scene to help the others find Chapa. On his way, he spotted Chapa walking. But when Espericueta tried to approach him, Chapa took off — turning around to shoot. The corporal was hit and taken to the hospital, where he died.
“We became friends eight years ago,” Lara, 37, said. “We vacationed together with our families, we had barbeques every weekend.”
“He loved his job,” Lara said. “He was one of the good guys, he had a passion for it. He was a man who put on his vest and the badge with pride every day. He was committed to his job and to his family.”
He had been featured on A&E's "Live PD," which follows police officers around the country as they work.
Lara, Espericueta and another two officers who formed the quartet of buddies spoke of the dangers of the job, but they told themselves that most likely it would not happen to them.
"Speedy" – as he was called because people always tripped up when trying to pronounce his last name, and because he was fast responding to calls – was the first Mission Police Department officer killed in the line of duty since 1978.
“Many supervisors don’t go out on calls,” Lara said, “but Speedy was one supervisor who felt that he had to go. He didn’t want anything to happen to one of the new officers, because if it did, he felt it would be on him.”
Now, Lara is seeing to it that his promise to his friend is fulfilled.
He and the other two officers who formed their crew will be helping Espericueta's daughter, Brianna, move into her college housing in San Antonio when she begins her junior year.
“Speedy couldn’t stop talking about his daughter going to San Antonio for college,” Lara said. “He was afraid she might not come back” to live at home.
And the friends will be at his son’s first football game, cheering him on.
And when Espericueta's wife, Bobbie, gets her degree, putting her on the road to becoming a school principal, the friends will be at the graduation.
“We’ve been there, with the family, every step of the way,” Lara said. “We’re trying to fill the gap.”