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LAPD officer, a 13-year veteran, dies after contracting coronavirus

Los Angeles Police Department officers.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

A Los Angeles police officer died of the coronavirus early Friday, the first sworn officer in the city to succumb to the deadly pandemic, authorities said.

Officer Valentin Martinez, 45, worked patrol and is presumed to have contracted the virus while on duty, said LAPD Chief Michel Moore. He had been on the force for 13 years.

Compounding the grief of Martinez’s family and his co-workers is that Martinez’s domestic partner is 20 weeks pregnant with twin boys, Moore said.

“They are devastated,” Moore said. Within the department, there has been an “outpouring of love and support,” particularly in the Mission Station, where Martinez worked.

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Moore said all active officers who fall ill with COVID-19 symptoms are presumed to have contracted the virus on duty.

“We all grieve together over the loss of a police officer, a servant, a person who worked the streets to safeguard the lives of the people of Los Angeles,” Moore said. “There are all kinds of threats to their safety, and this is yet another one.”

Moore said Martinez first fell ill in May.

Martinez is the second LAPD employee to die of the virus. Earlier this month, senior detention officer Erica McAdoo died from complications of COVID-19.

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A total of 437 LAPD employees had contracted the virus as of July 22, officials said; 254 of those employees are quarantining due to exposure, according to a news release.

The number of COVID-19 cases among the LAPD’s ranks boomed in July, a spike that Moore partially attributed to conditions officers faced during a wave of protests that followed the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

The department has faced criticism from protesters and others who say officers were not wearing masks at protests, and continue to not wear masks on the streets. Moore said he and the LAPD command staff require officers to wear masks whenever possible and are pushing officers to remain as careful as they can.

Hundreds of officers who have contracted the virus have returned to work, he said.

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Martinez joined the LAPD in 2007, according to a fundraising website set up by his loved ones to help with his medical costs and gather donations for his domestic partner. As his symptoms worsened he was treated by emergency personnel at Henry Mayo Hospital in Santa Clara and then Providence Saint John’s Medical Center in Santa Monica, where he was placed on a ventilator in early June, according to the website.

Moore said efforts were made to get Martinez “the very best care,” and that staff at St. John’s were “extraordinary in their valiant efforts to save him.”

The Los Angeles Police Protective League, the union which represents rank-and-file LAPD officers, described Martinez as a “hero lost way too early in life.”

All of our officers have placed themselves, and their families, at increased risk throughout the response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” the union said in a statement. “We honor their sacrifice today.”


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