The 21-year-old Arbuckle tow truck driver who jumped into danger to aid a California Highway Patrol Officer that was stabbed in the back during a traffic stop is now considering a change in career to law enforcement.
Christian Melendrez, who was hailed a hero after he came to the rescue of CHP Officer Philip Martinsen on Interstate 5 on Feb. 15, said he would likely follow the recommendations of local law enforcement to apply to the CHP academy.
Melendrez, a 2015 graduate of Pierce High School, has worked for Selover’s Towing for just over a year and previously worked for Caltrans. He said being on the roadways with first responders and training to keep an eye out for others gave him the wherewithal to provide assistance to Martinsen, who is still recovering from his wound.
“I was just glad I could help,” Melendrez said. “It feels great and it’s something to be proud of.”
Melendrez was working on Interstate 5 when he saw Officer Martinsen struggling with a woman on the ground on the side of the road.
Martinson had stopped 25-year-old Haile Neil around 10:30 PM for driving in excess of 100 miles per hour with her hazard lights on near Myers Road in Williams.
According to the CHP, Neil became belligerent during an attempted field sobriety test, pulled out a concealed knife, and allegedly stabbed Martinson through his bullet proof vest.
Melendrez said when he first drove upon the incident he thought only a CHP officer was down and he stopped his tow truck on the side of the road to assist.
“I then saw that it was two people struggling, so I realized instantly what was going on,” Melendrez said.
As Melendrez jumped in to help, Officer Martinsen said he had been stabbed and asked the Good Samaritan to help restrain Neil.
“I got on top of her, took the handcuffs from his belt, turned her over, and got one arm in and then the other,” Martinsen said.
It was only after Melendrez subdued the woman that Martinsen was able to call for backup.
Neil was arraigned on charges of attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon, and driving under the influence of a controlled substance on Feb. 20. She is expected to enter a plea today in Colusa County Superior Court.
Martinsen said Neil appeared to him to be under the influence and was exhibiting signs of paranoia, but that he was just glad to help the injured officer getting the “screaming” woman under control.
Martinsen was flown to Enloe Medical Center where he was treated and released.
CHP Spokesman Franco Castillo, of the Williams CHP Office, said at a press conference last week that recognized Melendrez’s heroic actions, that he does not recommend people jump into the fray.
He was, however, happy Melendrez intervened, which potentially save not only Officer Martinsen but Neil’s as well.
“He was there at the right time, and we’re very proud of him,” Castillo said. “He put his life on the line and we appreciate it. It was a very unselfish act.”
Melendrez said he is glad the officer will recover, and hopes to talk to him about the incident and the CHP academy.
Melendrez is the son of Regelio and Alma Melendrez, and has lived in Arbuckle since age 12.
Melendrez’s wife, Celina, said she is very proud of her husband and does not find it surprising that he now wants to become a CHP officer.
“I’m a little nervous, but I think he would be good at it,” she said.
Melendrez said he had not seriously considered law enforcement as a career, but the experience left him confident about being able to provide that kind of service to the public.
“It’s good to know that I can do it,” he said. ■