Teachers reflect on beloved student, Nicholas Curiel-Maldonado, after funeral service interrupted by persecution

CHULA VISTA, California – Two South Bay teachers are still in shock after a man was grabbed at their former student’s funeral Thursday after a chase that ended with an arrest at the altar inside the Church of the Most Precious Blood in Chula Vista .

“It felt really incredible,” said teacher Ashley Boyle. “Not only could it happen because it seemed so strange, but for this family, it was incredible under this circumstance.”

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

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

The funeral was for 11-year-old Nicholas Curiel-Maldonado. He was a beloved fifth grader at Hawking’s Charter School who died of 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 good sense of humor.”

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

The teachers said he is a great loss to their school, but an even greater loss to his family, who have already gone through so much. The family of five battled cancer not only with Nicholas but also their eldest son.

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

They said the last thing the family needed was a break while saying goodbye to their son.

“We were in such a shock because we were already unable to understand what this family had been going through, and then having such a particularly important time interrupted that way was just incredibly unfair,” Barnes said.

Teachers are asking the community to support the family. They have started one GoFundMe to help the family pay for medical bills and whatever they may need.

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