Hundreds of residents gathered in Manhattan Beach’s Joslyn Community Center to share remembrances of Martin Ganz, a 29-year-old police officer gunned down during a routine traffic stop Dec. 27, 1993.
His death marked the first and only murder of a peace officer in Manhattan Beach – a dire moment that shook the affluent seaside community to its core.
“The killer not only took Martin Ganz – but took away our sense of self, our sense of safety,” Mayor Steve Napolitano said during the ceremony. Napolitano was also mayor at the time of the officer’s killing.
“It was devastating to this community, it really shattered our sense of peace,” he said. “Then I remember, slowly but surely, people coming together…we leaned on each other and helped pick each other up.”
Indeed, the tone of the evening was far from somber.
A slideshow of photos played on a projector, showing Ganz in school photos – grinning hugely from beneath various trendy haircuts – or posing proudly atop a motorcycle, as those who knew him shared memories steeped in loving humor.
“After arresting a few DUIs, Martin loved getting ice cream,” mused Police Chief Derrick Abell, who has served with the department for 27 years. “Martin loved it so much that he came up with own radio code when he wanted other officers to join in for ice cream…10-31 – 10 because Baskin-Robbins was on Tenth Street and 31 because, obviously, there were 31 flavors.”
Pam Schultz, who was Ganz’s fiancee at the time of his death, also spoke of the man she said lived every day of his life to the fullest.
“Part of my job is swearing in witnesses before they testify,” explained Schultz, a judicial assistant in Torrance, “So when Martin would come into the courtroom where I work to testify and I would ask him to stand and raise his right hand, he would. And while no one else could see, he would cross his eyes at me to try and get me to flub up the oath in front of everyone.”
Schultz said she will remember Ganz’s “infectious laugh, his impish grin, his love for all things Disney, (and) the way he sang along with his favorite country music songs.”
“Time, no matter how much, cannot take away those things because they are not in my mind, they are in my heart,” she said.
Ganz’s sister, Janet, called her brother a jokester but said he was dedicated in his intention to be a police officer, noting he also served as a military police officer in the U.S. Marine Corps.”
“Freedom is never free. And some give all. Never forget and be proud,” she said as she thanked everyone in attendance on behalf of the Ganz family. “So Martin gave all.”
The ceremony concluded with a memorial procession. To the sound of bagpipes and drums, mourners filed from from the Joslyn Center to the Live Oak Park.
There, the procession gathered around a memorial dedicated to Ganz – a bronze-casting of his motorcycle helmet atop a monolith with his name, birthday and date of his death.
All placed either a flower or a candle beside his monument, where the tokens of gratitude for his sacrifice remain beneath two oak trees.
“I will never forget him or his service,” said his sister, capturing the tone of the evening,” not only to this community that he loved but to our country.”