GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas - A woman who survived the mass shooting at Wedgwood Baptist Church in Fort Worth nearly two decades ago dedicated her life to protecting others. And now, Christy Martinez has just been named Grand Prairie's first female Assistant Chief of Police.
Martinez doesn't know his name but would like to thank the off-duty officer who ran into the danger zone that day in 1999 when he could have stayed outside.
Seventeen years ago on September 15, Martinez was 16-year-old when a gunman opened fire on churchgoers at Wedgwood Baptist Church.
“My friend had invited me. He and I sat in the front center pew when we heard shots rang out in the hallway,” she recalled.
The sound of shots in the hallway kept getting closer and closer.
“My friend got shot beside me. The young lady behind me, I don't talk about this very often. The young lady was shot behind me. I could see her lifeless body in a pool of blood,” she said. “The shooter also threw a pipe bomb beside me. And by the grace of God, it did not go off."
The gunman shot and killed seven people. Then in the middle of the carnage came hope. An off-duty officer nearby heard the shooting.
“He was a sign — a symbol to me of a rescuer,” Martinez said. “Once the officer reached the side door, the shots had stopped. The killer committed suicide in the back. He was telling us, ‘Run! Run!’ So we ran out.”
It is that officer who inspired Martinez to enter law enforcement.
“That off-duty officer made a difference in my life,” she said. “And that is what I want to do on a daily basis."
Martinez is now the first woman in Grand Prairie to be an assistant chief. The promotion ceremony marks how far she has come and how far she wants to go.
“This is my purpose in life,” she said. “I didn't ever look at those barriers."
The Associated Press recently wrote that experts have found women tend to de-escalate violent situations. So as departments shift their focus to non-violent techniques, it is natural more female leaders will be tapped.