Father of Isla Vista victim Christopher Martinez says he will work to stop future tragedies

An undated family photo of Christopher Michaels-Martinez.
An undated family photo of Christopher Michaels-Martinez.

Three days after his only son and five others were killed during a bloody rampage in Isla Vista, Richard Martinez says he may spend the rest of his life trying to stop such tragedies from ever occurring again.

His son, Christopher Michaels-Martinez, 20, of Los Osos was the last victim in a stabbing and shooting spree Friday that left six UC Santa Barbara students dead. Suspect Elliot Rodger, 22, also died of a self-inflicted gunshot.

“I want to make Chris’ death mean something,” Martinez said Monday. “I’ll continue to talk about this issue for the rest of my life, if necessary.”

On Saturday, Martinez told reporters before a news conference that he blamed “craven, irresponsible politicians and the NRA” for his son’s death.

“They talk about gun rights. What about Chris's right to live?” he cried out that day. “When will this insanity stop? When will enough people say, stop this madness! We don’t have to live like this. Too many have died. We should say to ourselves, not one more!”

On Monday, Martinez said some people have called his words on Saturday the railing of a grief-stricken father. Perhaps they were, he said, “but they were not irrational.”

A criminal defense attorney in Santa Maria, Martinez said he isn’t ready to talk in specifics about what changes he will push for, although he has ideas and expects to do that in the future.

“This is a complicated problem,” he said, “It’s a mental health problem, it’s a gun violence problem and it’s a problem of violence against women. My family is not going to forget that he originally was targeting young women. I think something has to be said about that.”

He continued, “There’s a tendency to think that this was a madman and that we can’t do anything about it. I think that’s an easy out. I don’t believe it. I know this is a complicated problem but I do believe it has a solution.”

Martinez said he and Caryn Michaels, a deputy district attorney in San Luis Obispo, separated when Chris was young, but the parents shared custody and have maintained a good relationship. They have been working through the death of their only child together, he said, and have begun making funeral arrangements.

The family also plans to attend a memorial program that UC Santa Barbara has scheduled for 4 p.m. Tuesday.

Michaels has supported Martinez in his doing numerous television and newspaper interviews to talk about their son, he said, although she isn’t ready to speak publicly. 

Martinez said he wants people to know that Chris had a family that cherished him and remembers the good times.

One of those memories was when Chris was a student at Los Ranchos Elementary School in San Luis Obispo. He played soccer and was goalkeeper one day when the opposing team got the ball past him and scored, Martinez recalled.

The next day, Chris was determined to set the record straight while playing forward.

“Chris took the ball and brought it all the way down the field and scored a goal,” he recalled, laughing. “The very next play he did it again. He was a tremendous competitor.”

That competitiveness and focus also drove him to be an excellent student at Laguna Middle School and San Luis Obispo High School before graduating in 2012 and heading off to UCSB. Friends have said that along with his drive, Chris was a kind and generous spirit.

“People loved him. Everyone loved him,” Martinez said. “They would call us up and tell us he was such a great kid.”

UC Santa Barbara memorial

The university has declared Tuesday as a Day of Mourning and Reflection; classes will not be held.

A 4 p.m. memorial service will be held at Harder Stadium. Students are planning a memorial wall at Pardall Center.

Counseling services are available to students with a hotline number of 805-893-4411.

A call center to handle questions by community members and parents is 805-893-3901.

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