But the openly gay 23-year-old would not live to see his next birthday.
On Jan. 9, 2012, Martinez was gunned down on the 3500 block of North Hutchinson Street in North Philadelphia while trying to protect his nephew from a robbery.
More than a year later, his killers have yet to be identified.
Martinez’s sister, Rosalind Pichardo, is not ready to give up the search. Pichardo is the founder of Operation Save Our City, which she launched after her brother’s murder to promote safety and peace in Philadelphia. The group produces marches and camp-outs to promote anti-violence solutions, including a three-day event she hosted last weekend that drew the support of hundreds, who rallied for peace and for justice for Martinez.
Martinez’s family accepted his sexual orientation from the start. Pichardo said her brother’s coming-out process was natural.
“We knew, everyone knew he was gay,” she said. “We knew when he was young. I especially knew when he was around 8 years old. One day he sat my mom down and was really nervous to come out to her. My mom was like, ‘I already knew.’”
Pichardo said that although her father was emotional when Martinez came out to him, he was also accepting.
“We have a very supportive family; we don’t judge. We embraced him for who he was,” she said.
According to Pichardo, Martinez was a talented budding artist who loved fashion and cosmetology.
“He was a pretty good artist. He especially loved to draw. He loved to design stuff and was especially good at putting an outfit together. He would give me fashion advice and would do hair for his friends. He was very creative.”
She said her brother did promotional work for different gay bars in Philadelphia and frequently traveled to New York with his friends.
The night he was killed, Martinez was accompanying his 16-year-old nephew to a food store when they were approached by two men who demanded money.
According to Pichardo, Martinez stepped in between the two robbers and his nephew, and they shot him in the abdomen.
“People have no compassion. My brother didn’t deserve to be shot down like an animal. He was my brother; it doesn’t matter if he was gay or straight,” she said.
Pichardo said it wasn’t apparent whether her brother was targeted for his sexual orientation.
Police spokesperson Officer Christine O’Brien said there have been no arrests in the case, nor any persons of interest identified. The motive is listed as robbery, and the the case is open and active with the Homicide Unit, she said.
But the family questions the thoroughness of the investigation.
“When [Martinez] was murdered, the detectives and the officers did not make an effort to find out who he was. The day they came out to do the investigation, they were rushing. I felt like they wanted to go,” Pichardo said.
Pichardo said she has called and visited the police station and has reached out to local politicians, but with little success.
Six weeks after the killing, Pichardo said, her family discovered bullet casings at a memorial where Martinez was gunned down.
“We thought that was something we needed to share with the detective. These weren’t whole bullets, they were clearly fired before,” she said.
Pichardo was told the officers would investigate the scene; however, two days later, the casings were still there.
“We called the office to see if anything was investigated and they told us we had to bring the bullets to them,” she said. “I feel like we have to do everything. We are the ones on the blocks trying to find out who the killers are.”
O’Brien said in a statement that “our Homicide detectives diligently and thoroughly investigate each and every homicide until brought to a resolution.”
Pichardo said there is surveillance from a local shop that shows the murder.
“The video is kind of clear, but I feel like it could be enhanced, but the police won’t even try and enhance the imaging,” she said.
Martinez’s defense of his nephew depicted in the video showed a lot about his character, Pichardo added.
“It said that he was strong, which people didn’t know. Even though he was quiet, he would stand up for what he believed in. He was very protective of his family. He was special; he wasn’t the kind of person you forget,” she said. “He had such a good heart.”
Martinez’s murder has taken a toll on his family.
“My mom has not handled this very well because she feels like the police are not doing anything,” Pichardo said. “My brother did not grow up in a broken family, he grew up in a happy family. There was so much happiness when my brother was around and now my family is so depressed.”
But Pichardo’s work with Operation Save Our City has been encouraging.
She said the most rewarding aspect of the work is getting youth involved.
“It is amazing to see the teenagers come out,” she said. “They realize how much devastation violence can cause a family or how there are other options and people to talk to besides committing violence.”
Pichardo said even children as young as 10 are ready to help with the cause.
Several-hundred people turned out last weekend for the three-day camp-out on Allegheny Avenue, in which Pichardo and supporters slept in tents despite Friday’s snow and the bitter temperatures.
Pichardo said she plans to continue Operation Save Our City and hopes to include more youth-focused events.
“We want to have events where kids can come out and we can have plays and skits on how people can deal with violence,” she said.
While the agency is focused on curbing crime citywide, Pichardo said an arrest in her brother’s case would be a big sigh of relief for her family and the community.
“It would mean that nobody else would have to go through what we went through in the hands of this killer. He won’t take another life. I just want him to be caught and off the streets. I don’t want him dead, I wouldn’t wish that on anybody, but what he did was wrong and he needs to make himself right.”