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Officer who risked life to save 3 kids honored

Citizen Staff

James Martinez braved gunfire to rescue children being held hostage in their home.



The Tucson Police Department has given its Medal of Valor to an officer who braved gunfire to rescue three small children being held hostage in their home by a gunman.

Officer James Martinez, 31, was honored yesterday morning at an award ceremony. He’s been with TPD for 3 1/2 years, and is assigned to the department’s South Side patrol district.

Martinez’s heroics began with a call to police early Jan. 21 from a man reporting a prowler outside his home, according to the award citation.

The call was from near South Park Avenue and East Fair Street, Martinez said.

When he first heard gunfire, thoughts of his wife, 6-year-old daughter, his colleagues and their families raced through his mind. But then he focused only on the situation.

“You just put it aside, and you work through it and do the job you’re being paid to do,” he said.

According to the citation:

Police arriving on the scene and spotted an armed man who fled into a home.

Shortly afterward, police heard a shot from inside the home and people screaming, then saw several adults running from the home.

As more officers converged on the scene, police learned three children were inside the home.

The gunman had barricaded himself inside a bedroom and was holding the three children hostage and threatening to kill them, police officers and himself.

Even after the man fired several shots through walls toward Martinez and four other officers in the home, they stayed inside to prevent the gunman from leaving.

Meanwhile, the gunman moved back and forth between two bedrooms, holding one of the children as a shield.

The gunman fired two more shots down a hallway, spraying the officers with debris from bullet strikes, then made his way to another bedroom, where he fired another shot.

With the other officers providing cover, Martinez went into an adjacent bedroom and rescued the first child.

After taking the girl from the home, Martinez went back inside and the gunman came out of the bedroom.

Martinez persuaded him to release the second child. The third child was later released unharmed and the gunman was arrested.

“For selflessly putting himself in danger to save the lives of three children,” the citation says, “Officer Martinez is awarded the Medal of Valor.”

Tucson Citizen reporter Irene Hsiao contributed to this article.

Others honored

During yesterday’s ceremonies at the Tucson Convention Center’s Leo Rich Theater, the department also honored its gang and burglary units, as well as 27 other officers and civilian employees.

The Chief of Police Citation of Excellence given to the officers and civilian employees recognizes noteworthy achievements or special service or outstanding performance on difficult police operations, projects or situations requiring exceptional dedication.

The department gave 11 officers and civilian employees the Unit Medal for those engaged in on- or off-duty police projects that had a significant, positive impact on the community.

Two officers received the Medal of Merit for their meritorious contribution greatly benefiting TPD.

It also awarded 14 officers and a civilian employee the Medals of Distinguished Service for employees demonstrating an exceptional degree of good judgment, initiative and competence and who have sustained a record of distinguished service.

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