LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - "I feel really proud and honored that I got to serve for 34 years with men and women of integrity," said Detective Rey Martinez with the Lubbock Police Department.
Martinez joined the department at 22 years old and became a detective two years later.
"Nobody in my family was ever in law enforcement, I was the first. But even as a kid, I was taught to respect law enforcement," Martinez said.
Martinez said that respect and admiration turned into a dream come true when he qualified to be an officer.
"I was fortunate enough to work in property crimes, narcotics, special investigations, I worked on the DEA task force, just different assignments, but my primary assignment was always homicide," Martinez said.
Martinez has flown across the state to help other agencies with interviews and interrogations.
"That's always been my specialty," Martinez said.
"I always kid that I carry a note in my pocket that says if I ever do anything wrong I don't want to talk to Rey Martinez," said Lubbock County District Attorney Matt Powell.
Powell said he and Martinez have worked about a hundred cases together.
"The way he dealt with civilians, suspects, witnesses, other officers, prosecutors, judges, everybody - he was a consummate professional," Powell said.
Martinez said one of the cases that stands out in his memory dates back to 1987 when a woman was killed at a cleaners off of University.
"That was a very brutal murder. The man that killed her became a fugitive and it took me 17 years to locate him and have him arrested in Mexico - he had fled to Mexico. We were able to extradite him back and justice was served in that case and we had closure for the family," Martinez said.
Martinez said retiring from the police department with unsolved cases is difficult, but he knows there are men and women who will continue to work to bring closure and justice to families.
"There's a lot of family members over the years that will send me a card, or call me, or make contact or walk up to me and tell me how grateful they are. That is so rewarding," Martinez said.
Martinez said for every murder victim, there are additional victims like friends and family who are mourning a loss. He says being able to bring them closure is one of the satisfying parts of his job.
"Rey just exemplifies what you want in a police officer. He's a tenacious investigator," Powell said.
"There's been occasions when people have threatened me or messed with my house, messed with vehicles and things like that. Rey has actually, on his own time, sat up on my house, safeguarding my kids and my family and that means more to me than you can imagine," Powell said.
Martinez earned the Peace Office of the Year award in 2001, an award Powell nominated him for.
"That was a great honor that he even thought of me," Martinez said.
"I wasn't the only one who worked that case, there was a lot of men and women that served. Any of them could have got that," Martinez said.
Martinez's office is filled with awards and honors, but perhaps what means the most is not hanging on the wall.
Martinez's son is also a police officer who served eight years in investigations, right across the hall from his father.
"Not very many men get that opportunity to have their son work with them," Martinez said. "That was like wearing a medal. There is no bigger award."
Martinez retired on Friday.