David Martinez dies at 67; pastor’s church helped gang members and addicts

by Dennis McLellan |  Los Angeles Times

David Martinez, pastor of Victory Outreach Church of the San Fernando Valley, whose ministry has affected the lives of thousands of former gang members, drug addicts and others over the last 35 years, has died. He was 67. He founded Victory Outreach Church of the San Fernando Valley in 1975. The former gang member’s church operates a gang intervention program and a rehabilitation center.

Martinez, who had suffered a heart attack in December, died of a heart attack Sunday while vacationing with his family in Yosemite, said his wife, Faith.

The Pacoima-born Martinez, a former gang member, founded Victory Outreach Church of the San Fernando Valley in 1975, after reaching out to the area’s gang members and drug addicts.

The church in Arleta operates a gang intervention program and a rehabilitation center for men in Arleta and one for women in Sunland.

“To me, he was a strong father figure,” said Karl Cruz, pastor of the church’s Spanish-language congregation. “He had open arms for everybody.”

Cruz was one of those whose life was turned around by Martinez’s outreach. That was in 1991, when Cruz was a teenage Pacoima gang member spending time in juvenile hall for armed robbery.

“If it wasn’t for him having the church here and reaching out and having a prison ministry I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to know that my life can really be changed,” Cruz said. “They presented Christ to me in a way that related to my lifestyle.

“He was an inspiration to me because of where he came from himself and how he overcame his own struggles.”

As Martinez told The Times in 1990: “For 10 years, I roamed the streets of San Fernando. I ended up a drug addict. I know that people in the street can change.” Read more.

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