California Highway Patrol Officer Jarrod Martinez died while on duty in a traffic collision near Los Olivos on Thursday, October 29, just two days prior to his one-year anniversary of graduating the academy.
The 30-year-old San Marcos High graduate was riding his personal motorcycle on the way home from testifying at a traffic hearing in Santa Barbara Superior Court. Martinez was nearly home on Thursday afternoon when the accident occurred, and was riding his motorcycle westbound on Steele Street approaching the intersection of Foxen Canyon Road.
A Porsche being driven by Curtis Smith, 68, of Solvang, was traveling eastbound on Highway 154 when he turned right onto Foxen Canyon Road. He positioned his vehicle to cut the corner as he turned onto Steele Street, according to the CHP collision report. “Rather than remaining within the southbound lane of Foxen Canyon Road to the right of the painted double yellow lines to a point where Steele Street was visible,” the CHP report explains, “Smith cut across the width of Foxen Canyon Road, which caused his vehicle to be positioned on the wrong side of the road as he transitioned onto Steele Street.”
Martinez saw the vehicle, whose driver may not have seen him because of a row of trees on the north shoulder of Steele Street, and braked heavily, causing him to be ejected from his motorcycle. Martinez was then dragged by the Porsche for about 45 feet, according to the CHP. An off-duty medical examiner stopped to render aid, but Martinez died at the scene.
CHP Capt. Jeff Sgobba, voice trembling as he spoke, recalled an energetic young man who was upbeat, outgoing, and eager to learn. He said Martinez had worked as an Audi mechanic at Cutter Motors in Santa Barbara, and later moved up to Sacramento to also work on Audis. He took a pay cut to work for the CHP, Sgobba said. “From day one his heart was in the right place,” Sgobba said. “He was a fine representative of the CHP.”
The incident put the area CHP office on its heels during the biggest weekend of the year, Halloween weekend, when several departments pitch in to deal with the huge Isla Vista party. Despite that, Sgobba said, other CHP offices and area law enforcement agencies have offered everything they can to help the CHP officers during this time.
Three officers from the same cadet class joined Martinez in the Santa Barbara CHP office. “Our area is basically reeling right now,” Sgobba said at a press conference, a photo of Martinez in uniform placed behind him.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Joyce Dudley worked with Martinez on his first fatality, that of 41-year-old Rosario Silvestre, who was killed in a crash involving drunk driver Fabian Maduena. Maduena was sentenced to 21 years in prison earlier this week for Silvestre’s death. “I felt he absolutely was a rising star at the CHP,” Dudley said, “because of his passion and work ethic and doing it the right way.”
The two traveled to the scene of the crime and the autopsy, where Dudley said Martinez soaked things up, asking a lot of questions. “It’s just a huge loss,” she said. “It’s just heartbreaking.”
In Sacramento, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger released a statement indicating flags at the Capitol would be flown at half-staff to remember Martinez. His CHP commissioner, Joe Farrow, met with officers in the Santa Barbara office earlier Friday. “Maria and I are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Jarrod Martinez, who worked daily to protect his community,” Schwarzenegger said in a statement. “The Santa Barbara area is a better place because of his tireless service and we will never forget his dedication to public safety. On behalf of all Californians, we send our thoughts and prayers to Jarrod’s family, friends and fellow officers.”
Martinez is survived by his wife, Trish, and their child, Julia. Both live in Buellton, along with Martinez’s parents.
A 1 p.m. service on Wednesday, November 4 will celebrate the life of Martinez at the Courthouse Sunken Gardens.