PEARSALL, Texas – The death of one of only about a dozen police officers in the city of Pearsall is being felt by members of this close-knit community.
The officer, identified as Mike Villarreal, 50, was killed in a crash while on duty Sunday afternoon.
According to investigators with the Department of Public Safety, Villarreal was driving a teenager to a juvenile detention facility when a pickup hit his patrol car on Highway 97, about five miles west of Jourdanton.
The teen and the driver of the pickup also were seriously injured and had to be flown to a hospital.
On Monday morning, the 15-year-old was listed in critical condition, suffering from broken bones and other injuries, according to Jose Trevino, the interim city manager.
Trevino was the only Pearsall city representative available for comment on Monday morning. He said the police chief and mayor were both out of town.
However, Trevino said they and the entire city are feeling the impact of Villarreal's death.
"He was a good man, a kind man and he served our community very well," he said. "Our officers are always at risk whenever they're on duty, and it's a hard loss for us to take."
Trevino said the cause of the crash is still under investigation. He also said no plans had been made yet for honoring the officer.
"It's too soon," he said. "We need to meet with the family."
Villarreal, a husband and father, was on his second stint with the police department, according to Trevino. He said he had been a Pearsall police officer in the past, and returned to the force in February.
Peggy Pena knew Villarreal as a regular customer in the convenience store where she works.
"It's pretty tragic," she said. "I feel bad because we do talk every time that he comes into the store."
Now, she said, much of the talk among customers has to do with Villarreal's death.
Trevino said while it has hit hard for people in the community, they will get through this tough time.
"It's a sad loss for us," he said. "Hopefully, the city will recover here and move forward and serve our community just like he did."