Fredrick Martin Jr. made no effort to conceal the pride he felt for his son. He bragged about the 8-year-old’s skills at karate and baseball, and showed family members copies of the boy’s completed homework.
“I have a young child genius,” Martin told his half-sister recently.
On Tuesday evening, Martin, 28, was cleaning the garage of his grandmother’s Inglewood home, along with his son, Fredrick “Tre” Martin III, and the boy’s godfather, Joseph Hickman. Just after 7 p.m., they heard gunfire nearby.
Martin quickly pushed the boy to the ground and huddled over him as the bullets flew by.
Martin was hit in the torso and in the abdomen. He died in surgery later that night. But his son survived, escaping with only a minor graze wound.
“He did what a father is supposed to do,” Martin’s half-sister, Micharri Pratts, said Saturday. “He made sure his son was always surrounded by love and support.”
Inglewood police were still searching this weekend for two shooters allegedly involved in the incident, but have released few details of the investigation. Two other shootings occurred in the city that night but are not believed to be related, authorities said.
Several of Martin’s friends and family members gathered at his mother’s home in Inglewood on Saturday to speak about his life. They said Martin — a college graduate who worked as an analyst at a Kaiser Permanente facility in Pasadena — had never been involved in gangs.
“It appears random,” said Melanie Miller, Martin’s aunt. “He didn’t live that type of lifestyle, didn’t wear the clothes, didn’t want to be part of it at all.”
Jaaye Person-Lynn, a high school friend of Martin, said there had been recent problems between gangs in the neighborhood. Martin could have been targeted mistakenly, he said.
“From my knowledge … it could have been a case where they retaliated without verifying,” Person-Lynn explained.
But Pratts interjected, saying that the family can only speculate. At this point, their focus is on assisting the investigation and caring for Tre.
Gary Lee, a cousin of Martin, said that in the chaos after the shooting, the boy told him, “My dad saved me.”
“We think he understands, but we don’t want him traumatized,” Pratts said. “He’s very intelligent and aware. But it’s going to take time for him to really process it.”
Fredrick Demetrius Martin Jr. was born in Gardena in 1983 and raised in Inglewood. His mother was still in high school, and she would take her young son with her to classes at Morningside High. The two developed an extremely close bond.
Martin grew into a sharp, outgoing young man, family members said. At Westchester High School, he starred on the football team and ran track before heading to college at Grambling State University in Louisiana.
During the summer after his sophomore year, Martin’s girlfriend, Ebony Delton, gave birth to their son. Martin and Delton then moved to Houston together, where they attended Texas Southern University and began raising Tre.
“Love is an understatement,” Martin’s cousin, Triena Embers, said of the relationship between Martin and his son. “It was the most natural connection … just like he had with his mother.”
After he graduated from college with a sociology degree in 2006, Martin returned to Inglewood. He and Delton later separated, but both remained actively involved in raising Tre.
In early 2011, Martin reconnected with Amanda Grant, a friend from high school. The two married in September and Grant is expected to give birth later this year.
Family members said Martin was overjoyed to be starting a family with Grant and had hoped to open his own restaurant business in the years ahead.
His family said the shooting was especially devastating because Martin had been vigilant about staying out of gangs. He knew which colors not to wear, his sister said, and which streets to avoid. “He told me, ‘It’s a reality of where we live, it’s always going to be around. You just have to be aware of your surroundings. You have to watch your back.’”
Acting Inglewood Police Chief Mark Fronterotta said he hopes the public can help solve what he called a “senseless crime.”
“We have no evidence to believe that he was involved in any kind of gang,” Fronterotta said. “Our understanding is that this was a fine young man.”
Inglewood police are encouraging anyone with information about the shooting to call homicide detectives at (310) 412-5246.
Martin’s family has created a fund to collect donations for his children.