The two cops had been partners for barely a week when they were “blue lighting” through an intersection on the Near North Side and Officer Maurizio Cazares gave the all clear to gun it.
Instead, Israel Martinez slammed on the brakes so that he could check the intersection for himself.
“I told him, ‘If you don’t trust me, then you need to find another partner because when I tell you to go, you f---ing go!’” Cazares said at the time.
Trust was never an issue after that day about 1 1⁄2 years ago. On Tuesday, wearing his dress blues, Cazares, 49, said he loved Martinez like a younger brother — and spoke of an extraordinary young police officer who somehow managed to save the lives of five people in the span of 14 months.
Martinez, 27, died unexpectedly April 12, about two weeks after helping save the life of a 52-year-old Michigan man stabbed in the throat on Michigan Avenue. Martinez’s family said Tuesday they are still awaiting test results to determine his cause of death.
The Chicago Police Memorial Foundation honored Martinez, Cazares and three other officers Tuesday for helping save the Michigan man’s life and for arresting his attacker.
“When he saw the opportunity to help someone, he would spring into action,” said Martinez’s sister Estefania Martinez, 22. “He knew what to do. He was never clumsy about it.”
Martinez had been in the Army National Guard before he became a police officer. He learned first-aid there, but also spent a lot of time hanging out with the medics, his sister said.
Cazares said that after two-plus decades on the force, he’d become a bit jaded, but Martinez’s enthusiasm proved infectious.
“But I wanted to go to work to work with him,” Cazares said.
He said he marveled at how “the kid” knew exactly what to do in the most dire of situations. In February 2020, a 15-year-old had been stabbed at North and Clybourn avenues.
“There’s a guy on the ground stabbed multiple times. [Martinez] sees the guy. He’s putting on his gloves. He’s like, ‘Sir, you’re going to be OK. I got this.’ ... He patches the guy up until the ambulance comes, and saves his life.”
Martinez explained it in less colorful language when CPD honored him shortly after the incident.
“I applied a chest seal and conducted a sweep of the body to make sure nowhere else was bleeding,” Martinez said. “I maintained open contact with him until EMS arrived on scene to render aid.”
In the days since Martinez’s death, Cazares said he’s struggled to understand his partner’s passing. Sometimes, he looks over at the empty car seat beside him and feels Martinez’s presence.
“The only thing I can come up with is that he truly was an angel sent down from God to help as many people as he could for the short amount of time he was on earth,” Cazares said.