A year after Valentín “Val” Martinez became the first Los Angeles Police Department front-line officer to die from COVID-19, the Mission Hills Community Police Station where he worked honored his memory with a memorial bike ride that started at the station and rode through Pacoima, the City of San Fernando, Sylmar and Granada Hills — the communities he patrolled.
At the time, Martinez, 45, was the department’s second employee to die from complications of the coronavirus. Senior detention officer Erica McAdoo, 39, a non-sworn LAPD officer, had died weeks earlier.
Hundreds of cyclists — including LAPD Chief Michael Moore and Martinez’s partner Megan Flynn, along with business owners and other community members — took part in the fundraiser held on Saturday, July 24, the anniversary of his death.
As the event began, the sounds of Bag Pipes filled the air as the LAPD’s Emerald Society Pipes and Drums played.
“Thank you to all the people at Mission for organizing and bringing it together in memory of Val. We’re here today for his sacrifice, for his loss,” Moore said.
Martinez and Flynn were expecting twin boys when he caught the virus, he died before they were born and never got the chance to see them. The twins, born last November, are now eight months old.
Because they were never married, Flynn is unable to receive further benefits from his health coverage or pension. Martinez’ benefits ended in July of 2020.
“The love of my life, my one and only, my perfect match, my love story has been taken from me,” Flynn told the assembled crowd. “[But] during my worst days, my darkest days, I was absolutely flooded with love.”
She thanked everyone who contributed to the GoFundMe account set up to help her and for all the gift cards, blankets and diapers she received.
“The fact my baby registry was bought out and I had to replenish it only with needs and wants, that just doesn’t happen, that’s amazing,” she said.
Flynn, a former LAPD officer herself, noted she was “at a loss for words” to fully express how much she appreciated the generosity shown to her and her sons.
“Through this tragedy people stepped up and made my life a little more manageable. So even though the words thank you are not enough, I just want to say thank you from deep down inside my core. I’m beyond grateful. Thank you for showing up in all the different ways that you have,” Flynn said before joining the blocks of people lined up to start the bike ride that memorialized the officer she so loved.
Riding Through the San Fernando Valley
Well-wishers could be seen cheering and holding signs of support along the 20- and 40-mile designated routes. The riders circled back to the finish line in front of the Mission Community Police Station. Food was served afterward, and music played.
“After months of planning, today was better than what we could’ve imagined! From the bottom of our hearts, thank you to all of our sponsors, community members, & friends that came out to support Megan and her two beautiful twin boys! Val! I hope we made you proud brother! Rest easy!” was written on the Mission Hills Station’s Facebook page.
The funds from the bike ride were donated to the family, the department’s youth programs, and to encourage better health and exercise habits. LAPD officials said they would like to make the ride an annual event.
A 13-year veteran described as “a valued colleague within the Los Angeles Police Department,” Martinez — who received a medal from the department in 2019 for saving a man having a heart attack — is believed to have contracted the virus while on patrol.
The Santa Clarita resident first tested positive for COVID-19 in late May of 2020. After he “fought COVID at home for one week,” according to his family, Martinez was rushed to Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital in Santa Clarita as his symptoms worsened. On June 10, Martinez was transferred to the ICU at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica.
But he never recovered or left the medical center.
“Val fought for his life every hour, but unfortunately, at 5:33 a.m. on July 24, Val passed away. All of the doctors who cared for Val did an amazing job and we are very, very grateful,” stated a GoFundMe account that was established after his passing.
“He was a hero lost way too early in life,” the Los Angeles Police Protective League Board of Directors said in a statement. “All of our officers have placed themselves and their families at increased risk throughout the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
More than $36,000 has been donated to Martinez’ GoFundMe page.
Besides Flynn and his sons, Martinez is survived by his mother and other siblings.
As of April this year seven sworn LAPD officers and two civilian employees have died from COVID-19, with 2,747 employees overall testing positive for the virus, according to the department.
Mike Terry and Diana Martinez contributed to this article.