Port Arthur man pleads guilty of murder and more

Jose Esquivel

Jose Esquivel, 24, of Port Arthur, was able to elude police after his initial capture in July 2015, escaping from a handcuff while already inside a patrol car, but justice finally caught up with him in Judge John Stevens' Criminal District Court on Monday, Feb. 1 when he pleaded guilty to murder and other charges related to the slaying of 25-year-old Denzel Jervon Washington and aggravated assault of 37-year-old Jafar A. Hill. 

At about 1:30 a.m. on July 16, 2015, St. Mary’s emergency room personnel contacted the Port Arthur Police Department regarding the admittance of a victim of a gunshot wound. Police identified the man, who had been shot once in the face, as Port Arthur resident Jafar Hill. Hill was able to identify his assailant, naming Esquivel as the shooter. 

Officers at the scene of the shooting located several items of evidence, including the weapon used in the shooting, and the preliminary investigation led them to believe the attack was drug-related. The victim himself had an outstanding warrant for his arrest for violating his parole in commission of a drug-related offense, PAPD revealed.

Officers went after gunman Esquivel and caught up with him a short time later. However, Esquivel was able to slip out of a handcuff while in the back of a patrol car and escape custody – but not for long. A few hours after his escape, Esquivel was re-arrested and was back in custody.

As a team of officers searched diligently for the escaped Esquivel, some of their fellow PAPD officers were responding to another shooting, a fatal one. According to initial reports, officers were dispatched to the intersection of 15th Street and Sixth Avenue in Port Arthur regarding an unresponsive male inside a vehicle at about 6:30 a.m. When they arrived, they discovered 25-year-old Port Arthur resident Denzel Jervon Washington deceased inside a parked vehicle and displaying apparent head trauma. Preliminary autopsy results revealed he was shot in the head.

PAPD detectives and officers interviewed friends, family and acquaintances of Washington trying to piece together what happened to him and identify a homicide suspect. Once they got Esquivel back into custody, they soon realized they had their suspect in both shootings. According to PAPD, Esquivel shocked them by confessing to Washington’s murder.

Police reported that the shootings were unrelated, but that Esquivel was believed to have targeted both victims for varying reasons.

A criminal database search revealed Esquivel has a previous misdemeanor arrest for failure to identify and that Washington, the homicide victim, had spent time in TDCJ for possession of a controlled substance and a probation violation. 

Esquivel, who was charged with aggravated assault and murder, pleaded guilty in a deal with prosecutors Feb. 1. The deal allows the judge to sentence Esquivel to a term up to but not exceeding 40 years in prison. Esquivel would have faced life in prison if convicted by a jury.