MISSION, Texas (AP) — A Texas police officer and a man with a lengthy criminal record were killed in an exchange of gunfire after the man’s mother reported that her son had fired at her car, authorities said Friday.
Mission Cpl. Jose Luis Espericueta and the suspect, 33-year-old Juan Carlos Chapa Jr., both died at the hospital with gunshot wounds after the shootout Thursday, police Chief Robert Dominguez said during a news conference.
Dominguez said the woman waved down a passing officer to notify police of her son’s behavior. Espericueta and other officers later found the suspect walking along a road. Chapa fled but then turned and fired at the officers, striking the corporal.
Espericueta, a 13-year veteran of the department, was married with two children.
Dominguez, his voice breaking as he stood Friday alongside law officers from several other agencies, grew emotional in speaking of the messages of support for his department in the hours after Espericueta’s death.
“It is this type of relationship that we have as police officers that says a lot about what we do for our communities,” said Dominguez, whose officers patrol a city of about 85,000 people in far South Texas, just west of McAllen.
The last Mission patrolman who was killed while on duty was in 1978 when an officer was fatally shot, Dominguez said.
He said Chapa had an extensive criminal history that included a number of convictions, adding that Mission officers had arrested him several times in the past.
Mission officers often patrol alone and Dominguez said he wished he had the resources to have them always work with a partner.
“Unfortunately, what we see in our communities, not only here but throughout the nation, is the number of officers being killed in the line of duty, and a lot has to do with that,” he said.
Prior to Espericueta’s death, there were 57 U.S. law officers who have died in the line of duty so far this year, 23 by gunfire, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page, a nonprofit group that keeps track of officer fatalities nationwide. There were 163 who died last year, 52 by gunfire, and 174 killed in 2017, 45 of whom were fatally shot.