Anaheim PD Traffic Control Assistant Giovanna Martinez couldn’t be there, but she’s immensely thankful for those who showed up for a barbecue fundraiser to support her and her family after she suffered critical injuries when a suspected DUI driver slammed into her parked work vehicle on March 9, 2019.
So popular was the May 1 event, held from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the parking lot of Anaheim Central Library, that Jav’s BBQ Co. ran out of food by 12:30 p.m.
No worries – there were plenty of hamburgers and hot dogs to feed all who showed up, including her colleagues at the APD and officers from surrounding agencies.
Martinez, 24, who joined the APD in her part-time job in November 2017, was sitting in her work pickup on a break from traffic control duties during an event at Servite High School when a car driven by Jose Alfredo Alcantar Garcia, 34, of Placentia, hit her from behind while going around 45 miles per hour.
APD investigators say Garcia never hit the brakes.
The impact ejected Martinez from her Toyota Tacoma. The driver door had been partially open.
Coworkers and paramedics rendered medical aid and she was transported to a local trauma center in critical condition.
Garcia was arrested on suspicion of being under the influence of methamphetamine and marijuana.
Martinez suffered three skull fractures, including a very serious one at the base, a contused lung, lacerations to the head, and bruises on her left leg.
“We thought she was going to die,” APD traffic collision Investigator Rick Alexander said. “All the people I’ve seen suffer that same (base) skull fracture didn’t make it.”
“I was devastated to hear it happen,” said Paul Munoz, her retired supervisor. “She’s a very pleasant individual and a very quick learner.”
A month after the collision, Martinez woke up.
And a few hours after the May 1 fundraiser ended, Martinez spoke to Behind the Badge from a rehab center in Pomona where she continues to receive physical and occupational therapy.
“I’m so thankful people (came) and I’m thankful that people are supporting me and my family,” said Martinez, whose mother had to quit her job to tend to her full time. Her father works in construction and her older sister is a tutor.
Martinez said she’s had her ups and downs but is pleased with progress in her recovery. She hopes to return to work but faces months of recovery.
Martinez said she’s always been interested in law enforcement, and her civilian job at the APD was a dream gig.
Martinez, who lives in Orange and went to Villa Park High School, was taking criminal justice classes at Santa Ana Community College when she applied for the position.
She made fast friends with fellow Traffic Control Assistant Cynthia Contreras, who started at the agency around the same time.
“She loves working here,” Contreras said at the May 1 event. “I love her. She’s the best friend I’ve ever had. She’s a free spirit and a good soul and lives life to the fullest.”
Nancy Nichols, one of the APD’s three Traffic Control supervisors, was working the bun line.
“Hamburger or hot dog?” she repeated constantly.
Nichols called the turnout extraordinary.
“It’s amazing how people come together in an outpouring of support,” Nichols said.
The APD employs about 60 part-timers on its Traffic Control Detail. This is the first time any has suffered major injuries while on the job, officials said.
Giovanna hopes to someday get back to work.
For now, she rests.