April 13, 2007
Tex. officer dies in road slick accident
Officer Down: Andrew Esparza - [Irving, Texas]
Additional Info: Officer Esparza had served with the Irving Police Department for two years.
Incident Details: Officer Esparza crashed about 8:45 pm on eastbound Highway 183 near Carl Road, during a rainstorm. He lost control of his patrol car when the vehicle hydroplaned and went off the right shoulder, hitting a concrete light pole on the side of the highway.
Cause of Death: Injuries sustained in an automobile accident.
Date of Incident: April 13, 2007
Crash on slick road kills Irving officer: One of two brothers on force, he took to policing like a 'duck in water'
By TANYA EISERER / The Dallas Morning News
For Officer Andrew Esparza, being an Irving police officer was like all in the family.
He was following his older brother when he joined the department two years ago. He also recently joined his brother on the tactical team.
"He was like a duck in water," said Lt. John Thorpe, his former patrol supervisor. "He just was a cop. When he came to my shift, it was right after he got out of training; literally you felt like he had been here forever. Andrew was like he had done it his whole life."
Officer Esparza lost his life Friday evening on a rain-slickened road when his car apparently hydroplaned as he headed to help another officer and crashed into a concrete pole. The 26-year-old died later at Parkland Memorial Hospital.
"The hearts of the men and women of the Irving Police Department are heavy today because ... we lost one of our best and brightest stars while responding to a call for service," said Police Chief Larry Boyd, clearly shaken by the loss. "Officer Esparza was a compassionate officer who truly loved his chosen profession. He was a great cop."
Officer Esparza's was the first line-of-duty death for the 325-member department since the Christmas Eve 2000 death of Officer Aubrey Hawkins. Officer Hawkins was shot to death as he came upon seven Texas prison escapees who had robbed a sports store.
"It's been a long night for us as a police department, and it is always difficult," Chief Boyd said. "We are a family."
Officer Esparza, who grew up in Fort Worth, earned degrees in business marketing and Spanish. When he wasn't working, he loved to hunt and fish, to play baseball and softball, and to rock climb.
The unmarried officer joined the Police Department about two years ago, but colleagues say he showed expertise and professionalism far beyond his years on the job. He recently was selected to join the department's SWAT team part time.
His brother, Officer Ralph Esparza, was a full-time member, colleagues say.
"He was a real good guy," said Lt. Kevin Hamrah, a patrol supervisor. "He was just a real promising officer. He was the kind of guy who would do anything for anybody."
Lt. Thorpe described Officer Esparza as a quiet Christian who always made himself available when other officers needed a Spanish translator.
"He never rolled his eyes," Lt. Thorpe said. "He even tried to clear off lunch once to translate when we had a DWI stop. I basically ordered him to finish your lunch. I told him, 'We're going to use you for important translations.' "
Soon after, Officer Esparza showed up anyway to offer his help.
"He said, 'I was almost done with lunch,' " Lt. Thorpe recalled. "That was just a microcosm of the kind of officer and a person he was. He just had such a good heart."
Speaking through police officials, his family declined to comment.
Police said his family was out of town and had to fly back because of the accident.
"He was a family-oriented man," said Officer David Tull, a police spokesman. "You can well understand, they're taking this extremely hard."
Friday night, Officer Esparza began his 12-hour shift about 6 p.m.
The worst of the punishing winds and hail had just rolled through Irving, and it was raining about 8:45 p.m. as he drove on eastbound Highway 183 near Carl Road to help another officer with a minor accident at State Highway 114 and Loop 12.
"Apparently he hit a puddle of water, lost control, went off the right shoulder and hit a concrete light pole on the side of the highway," Officer Tull said.
After the accident, which remains under investigation, several motorists called the department and told police that there was a squad car on the side of the road and that the officer wasn't moving.
Officer Tull said initially that there were no witnesses to the accident, but he said at Saturday morning's news conference that he wasn't sure if that was the case.
He also requested that if anybody did see the accident, they contact the department.
"The road can tell us only so much," he said.
Holly Yan contributed to this report.