Dozens of Riverside tow truck drivers rolled out Thursday with horns blaring and lights flashing in a touching tribute to a fellow driver who was killed while on the job.
Riverside police said Jesse Martinez, 27, was shot Oct. 7 during an argument with a customer near the intersection of Magnolia and Bandini avenues.
Martinez’s sister, Laura, said he loved his work and his family, including his three young children.
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"This is just a beautiful thing that they’re doing for our family and for Jesse,"she said, watching as her brother's coworkers drove in a somber procession toward the memorial service.
"I know my brother is looking down with a smile, seeing everything that's being done [for his family]," she added.
Martinez’s sudden death has been heartbreaking and baffling for his family. For his coworkers at Liberty Towing, it has been eye-opening. They said that when the call for service came in, it seemed like a normal one. Jesse was just helping a customer whose truck had broken down in Riverside.
The customer, Javier Martinez, wanted to get some belongings from his vehicle after it had been loaded onto the flatbed. But for safety reasons, Jesse couldn’t allow him to get on there.
"We don’t want them to jump on the bed because there could be possible oil or something else on the bed that you can’t visibly see, and if they jump up, they slip, they fall, they hurt themselves, it would be terrible," said Dominique Munoz, a worker at Liberty Towing.
Police said an argument then erupted and the 32-year-old customer shot Jesse Martinez.
"This could be any tow truck driver," said tow truck driver Chris Navarro. "It could happen to anybody. It could happen to me on my next call."
What happened to Jesse Martinez is unusual, his coworkers said, but it highlights the many dangers they face every time they respond to a call for service.
"It’s actually very important for the public out there… that whenever you see a fellow driver that has pulled over to the side and helping someone else, slow down," Navarro said. "Slow down for them."
Javier Martinez has been charged with murder. His bail is set at $1 million.
A GoFundMe account has been made to pay for Jesse's funeral costs and a legacy plan for his children's support.
If you would like to donate to the GoFundMe, you may do so here.
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