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Embattled K-9 handler has had distinguished career

Tony Holt Hernando Today
Published:   |   Updated: May 9, 2013 at 04:03 PM

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BROOKSVILLE More than once he has shown flashes of valor.

In 2002, his lieutenant credited him for his speedy response to a robbery call off Mariner Boulevard that led to an arrest.

In 2007, Cpl. Billy Martinez was commended for apprehending a suspect with a stun gun. He acted moments before the suspect could grab his own weapon.

In November 2010, a lieutenant from the Florida Fish and Wildlife wrote a letter to the sheriff commending Martinez and another group of deputies for saving two lost hikers in the Chassohowitzka Wildlife Management Area.

Martinez, a long-time K-9 handler, has responded and reacted bravely to danger numerous times during his 18-year law enforcement career. Based on his yearly evaluations, the consensus among his superiors is that he has been a useful asset to the sheriff's office. At least one thought he was a life saver.

"In addition to (Martinez's) assisting with supervision; he and his K-9 are also the noticeable difference with the successful conclusions to all those calls where someone who is either suicidal, depressed, wanted or lost is found," wrote then-Sgt. Craig Baxley. "I can not stress enough how much of a difference he is to all the Districts and what a resource he is to have when needed."

Martinez's future with the sheriff's office hangs in the balance. He's been relieved of his K-9 responsibilities until the conclusion of his internal affairs investigation, according to the sheriff's office.

Col. Mike Maurer said his allegations are directly related to his job as a K-9 supervisor. Further details of the investigation have not been disclosed.

Seven months earlier, Martinez was investigated for using his position as a law enforcement officer to avoid conviction following a September 2010 traffic summons. That allegation was sustained, along with the allegation he failed to report the summons to his supervisors.

Martinez was driving an agency-issued vehicle through Adel, Ga., when a police officer clocked him at 100 mph along the interstate, according to the IA report.

No other IA investigations were found in his file.

"It is very reassuring to know that there are officers like Deputy Martinez who are genuinely dedicated to their work and possess 'people skills,'" one resident wrote seven years ago in a letter of commendation to then-Sheriff Richard Nugent.

Martinez had responded to the resident's house for a wellness check.

Martinez's personnel file is stuffed with accolades. School principals, event planners, church leaders and others have written letters commending him for his public appearances with his K-9.

At least two supervisors stated he was a "great asset" to the sheriff's office.

In March 2002, Martinez, along with Deputy Troy Groves, fatally shot an armed fugitive near the Oaks Motel in Brooksville.

The suspect, 22-year-old Nathaniel B. Adkins, opened fire on deputies as they chased him, according to the sheriff's office.

The shooting was deemed justified following a local and state-level investigation. Martinez and Groves returned to work after being on unpaid administrative leave for about four weeks.

Another shooting involving a K-9 deputy took place in August 2010. Martinez was not directly involved in that incident, but because of his supervisory role within the unit, he was responsible for submitting a large volume of reports.

"(Martinez) did an excellent job and demonstrated dedication in completing this work in a timely manner," wrote Lt. Adam Lillibridge in his evaluation four months ago.

Records show Martinez withdrew from SWAT in October 1997 and joined the K-9 unit in March 1998.

In 2006, he was promoted to K-9 coordinator. He was promoted to the rank of corporal last winter.

Martinez's wife is an assistant communications manager with the sheriff's office. His brother, Joseph, a former trooper with the Florida Highway Patrol, also served as a Hernando County Sheriff's deputy from 2003 to 2009.

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