Three months after his police officer father was killed in the line of duty, a 13-year-old boy making his debut on the football field was cheered on by dozens of police officers who had come to pack the stands in his dad’s place.
"The one thing he couldn't stop talking about was Joaquin starting football this year," Police Officer Javier Lara told CNN. about his fallen comrade Cpl. Jose "Speedy" Espericueta, of Mission, Tex., who was fatally shot in June while responding to a call. He was the first officer in Mission to lose his life in the line of duty in 40 years.
So when Joaquin, Espericueta's son, had his first seventh-grade football game on Saturday, serving as a center and honorary captain for the Cathey Middle School team in McAllen, the stands were filled with “a sea of law enforcement” from across south Texas.
Among the 50 or so officers were representatives from the Mission Police Department, Hidalgo County Sheriff's Office and U.S. Customs and Border Protection, who were there to show Joaquin and his family that they were not alone.
"We made a promise to the family that we're gonna be there for special events," Lara, who organized the gathering, told CNN. "Being the first football game, we gathered agencies from across the valley to let him know that we're still there, even though his dad's not."
This isn't the first time Espericueta's fellow officers showed up to support the family. Dozens of police escorted Joaquin to his first day of school, and others helped his 22-year-old sister, Brianna, move to San Antonio for college.
"[Joaquin] was really excited. He was real thankful about us being here for him," Lara said. "He has a huge heart. He's going to be a good young man."
Before game, Joaquin and some officers went to midfield for the starting-team coin flip, as a helicopter flew overhead in his father's honor. Joaquin's team took home the win.
On June 20, Espericueta, 44, was reportedly responding to a call of help from a woman who said her son had shot at her car. When Espericueta tried to make contact with the man, he allegedly began to run, turned around, and shot the officer, who later died at the hospital. The shooter was then gunned down by responding officers.
Espericueta is survived by his wife, Roberta "Bobbie" Espericueta, as well as his two children.
“We’re going to be there for [the] family," Mission Police Chief Robert Dominguez told the Washington Post. "It’s a healing process for all of us.”
Representatives for the Mission Police Department did not immediately respond to Yahoo Lifestyle’s requests for comment.
Read more from Yahoo Lifestyle: