Teachers reflect on beloved student after funeral service interrupted by chase


CHULA VISTA, Calif. — Two South Bay teachers are still in shock after a man busted into their former student’s funeral Thursday following a pursuit that ended in an arrest at the altar inside the Church of the Most Precious Blood in Chula Vista.

“It felt truly unbelievable,” teacher Ashley Boyle said. “Not only that that could be happening because it seemed so odd, but to this family in this circumstance, it was unbelievable.”

The chase started around 10:30 a.m. on State Route 94, the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department said. After refusing to pull over for deputies, the man, later identified by sheriff’s officials as 40-year-old Jose Espinosa, pulled over around 45 minutes later near the church where he jumped out, ran off and entered the funeral service. Sheriff’s officials say Espinosa was wanted on a felony arrest warrant.

“I just hate that people also had to feel fear on a day that was emotional on so many levels already,” teacher Quincy Barnes said.

The funeral was for 11-year-old Nicholas Curiel-Maldonado. He was a beloved fifth grader at Hawkings Charter School who passed away from a brain tumor.

“I had Nicholas in first grade and I think the best way to describe him, even as a first grader, was stoic,” Boyle said. “He was always a little bit serious with a great sense of humor.”

Barnes added he was “really creative, artistic and so kind to everyone.”

The teachers said he’s a huge loss to their school, but an even bigger loss to his family, who has gone through so much already. The family of five batted cancer not only with Nicholas, but also their oldest son.

“Their family unit was just so incredibly strong like the way that Nicholas would talk about his siblings, about his parents,” Barnes said. “You could just feel how much love was in that family.”

They said the last thing the family needed was an interruption while saying goodbye to their son. 

“We were in such shock because we already weren’t able to comprehend what this family had gone through already and then to have such a special important time interrupted in that way was just incredibly unfair,” Barnes said.

The teachers are asking the community to support the family. They’ve started a GoFundMe to help the family pay for medical bills and anything they might need. 

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