Tears that flowed much like the historic May rains of Houston intensified as the son and daughter of Officer Richard Martin took turns speaking before the blue-laden crowd of mourners at Martin’s memorial service.
One former coworker, Stephanie Walter, told a reporter that Martin was well known and loved at S. P. Richards, the office supply where he worked before coming to HPD. “He was a great guy,” she said, “funny and loved people. He talked about that ever since he came to Houston, he wanted to be a policeman and then finally just got to a point and said ‘you know, I’m not getting any younger if I’m gonna do it, I’ve gotta do it’ so he went applied, got accepted. said guys, I’m gonna make it happen.”
Walter said Martin visited his friends at the office just three weeks before his death, telling everyone how happy he was, saying, “He was just absolutely thrilled. He said it was what he was meant to do.”
It wasn’t long after his graduation from the academy that he successfully applied to become a field training officer, a job only a very few officers with so little experience get tabbed to do.
When she spoke at the service, Mayor Annise Parker was obviously feeling the emotions of the moment when she alluded to the fact that Officer Martin “was one of ours.” Since she became mayor in 2010, two officers have lost their lives in the line of duty, Officer Eydemen Mani in 2010 and Officer Will in 2011. Both perished in automobile-related accidents, as did Martin.
‘One of Ours’
“Richard was a brother officer in the Houston Police Department, but he served a great and wonderful city. He swore an oath to protect and serve all of us in this great state of Texas,” the mayor said. “It is never easy to say goodbye. It is never easy to handle the grief, the pain, the memories. This one is a little tough for Chief McClelland and me because Richard was one of ours.’
Parker meant that he was the first to die in the line of duty after being recruited on the Parker/McClelland watch.
Parker also had encouraging words for Cynthia when she said, “There are a whole lot of folks cheering for you. Remember the strength and ability he had to tackle challenges” in making a mid-life career change.
“I bet you saw him running and doing pushups to compete with younger cadets,” she said. “I hope that when times are tough you can feel that strength.”
Chaplain Montgomery has often expressed himself at general membership meetings of the Houston Police Officers Union that he continuously prays that the period of time without a line of duty death in HPD will become a longer and longer period of time. Both he and Mayor Parker have openly expressed hope that the number of fallen heroes of the Bayou City would stop at 112.
Montgomery said at the service that Martin had been an exemplary officer after joining the department as a second chosen career and finished sixth in his class. “He was a good and faithful police officer. Our joy is that we knew Richard as one of our men in blue.”
He faced the Martin family, which included his father and said, “We are family. We will always be with you as family.”“Dad, I love you so much,” 11-year-old Little League baseball star Tyler Martin said in a letter to his father and hero.
“I will miss you for the rest of my life. I can’t wait to see you again. You were a great father. We all love you so much. I was not ready for this and I will really miss you. I will pray for you every day.
A True Hero
“I will make good grades and work hard for you. I will be a good kid and adult. I will follow my dreams and play hard in Major League Baseball and follow in your footsteps as a police officer.
“I love you for everything you’ve ever done for me. You were a great dad and a hero to a lot of people. You will always be remembered. You were my hero.
“Thanks for being there for me all the time. I can’t stop thinking about you and I love you so much.
“PS Remember, you’re my hero.”
Of all the moving tributes to Martin – each of which drew on the deepest emotions of the thousands of mourners who packed Grace Community Church on the Gulf Freeway – this one truly strummed the heart strings of HPD blue bloods.
Tyler Martin plays catcher for the Hawks of Katy Little League baseball and he sometimes pitches. He had the moral support of his team members seated behind him and his family. Similarly, Richard Martin’s fellow classmates from Academy Class No. 209 also were seated nearby.
Tyler stood by HPD Chaplain Monty Montgomery as the chaplain read the young man’s heartfelt words, which drew a standing ovation from the crowd at the May 22 ceremony.
Only a minute or two before Martin’s 22-year-old daughter, Cynthia, provoked a few gentle laughs as she recounted her fondest memories of her dad. She also spoke through a flow of tears.
She said her dad’s earliest memory of her entailed the doctor’s use of forceps in the delivery room. Initially she had bruises and marks about the head, prompting her proud papa to remark, “Don’t worry. Her head’s going to get back to normal.”
“I hope it did,” Martin’s daughter told the mourners.
She said he was so sensitive to her needs that he got braces on his teeth the same time she did as an early teenager. She briefly described father-daughter challenges such as who could keep a salted ice cube in his/her mouth the longest or who could eat the most jalapenos, the winner earning the privilege of renting an extra movie at the video store.
“He was my Superman,” Cynthia said. “I never really thought this would happen. It still seems so fake, this whole week has been unreal.”
The details of Martin’s line-of-duty death are all too familiar and will be permanently engraved in HPD history. He was the 113th officer to provide the ultimate sacrifice since 1860. Martin’s demise was the first sustained by the department since the May 29, 2011 death of Officer Kevin Will.
The nearly four years represented HPD’s longest period of time without a line-of-duty death since World War II.
The 47-year-old Martin was struck and killed by a gun-wielding robbery suspect and bail jumper as he was fleeing Houston police on the west side through the Memorial area. The officer was putting down spike strips to stop the man’s stolen vehicle. The suspect went out of his way to strike Martin, killing him instantly at 2:30 a.m. May 18 at the intersection of Kirkwood and St. Mary’s. A short time later the suspect stopped his stolen vehicle and shot himself. He later died in a hospital. Had he lived he would have been charged with capital murder.
A Mid-life Decision
Police Chief Charles “Chuck” McClelland told the news media that the case represented “the perfect location to deploy the spike strips.” He reminded reporters that HPD has only used the sometimes controversial tool in only 47 of the 3,600f police chases in the past five years.
Martin’s son and daughter were not the only emotional speakers at the service. The Mormon bishop and pastor who knew the officer for many years had trouble and so did Mayor Annise Park, Chaplain Montgomery and Officer Xavier Flores, who stood with five other Westside Patrol officers who had served with Martin.
Flores continued to choke back tears as he described Martin as “a hero.”
In a presentation marked by unsuccessful efforts to fight back tears, police officer Xavier Flores, a colleague of Martin’s at the Westside Patrol Division, called the fallen officer a “hero.” His pauses to control himself had no bearing on the mourners’ ability to hear what he was saying: that Officer Martin was a role model, a team leader, a man of sterling core values.
And Flores paused and said, “We will never forget you and your unmistakable breakfast of two scrambled eggs, crispy bacon and soft brown fries.”
Martin was older than most if not all of his colleagues on patrol at Westside. He joined HPD at age 43 and had served about four years up until the time of his death. Before that he had another career as manager of a warehouse for about two decades. He left the job as a hard-working and well-respected supervisor in order to fulfill his dream of becoming a police officer.