Commentary: Fort Hood policewoman 'erased a lot of prejudice'

Texas' first modern-day Latino hero emerged on a bloody weekday in the summer of '66.

Austin police officer Ray Martinez kicked open a door atop the University of Texas Tower in Austin. Then he and fellow officers ended the sniper spree of Charles Whitman.

Now he says Fort Hood police Sgt. Kimberly Munley has kicked open a new door.

"Women officers always had to struggle against discrimination and doubt, just like Hispanic officers did," Martinez, 72, said by phone Friday from his home in New Braunfels.

"I had to go up against a lot of prejudice. Now she has erased a lot of prejudice. People won't say that a woman can't do the job anymore."

At 5-foot-2, Munley is now a heroic giant, one of the officers who confronted an Army psychiatrist Thursday, ending a bloodbath at Fort Hood.

Munley, 34, an Army veteran and former small-town officer from coastal North Carolina, is recovering from wounds in her leg, wrist and side, according to the post’s emergency services director.

Martinez, retired after 18 years with the Texas Rangers, was watching TV on Thursday when yet another sniper struck in Central Texas, the scene of three of the worst mass killings in modern America.

In 1966, he was home watching the noon TV news and getting ready for his patrol shift when the news anchor reported that shots had been fired from the 28-story tower.

"I figured I should go in early and help with traffic," he said.

In an age before hand-held radios and SWAT teams, Martinez found that the streets had already been blocked and bleeding students were everywhere.

So he headed toward the tower.

Inside, he found two officers and an armed bookstore manager amid carnage — three people dead and two wounded.

Martinez kicked open the door atop the tower, found Whitman and started firing. Fellow officer Houston McCoy, behind Martinez, followed with two deadly shotgun blasts.

The final toll: 18 dead, including Whitman, and 31 wounded.

Martinez has retold his story in a book, They Call Me Ranger Ray.

He said police can't take time to think.

"I started shooting because that's the way we are trained — just like a robot," he said.

"It was all adrenaline. Then, when he was dead, the adrenaline stopped pumping and I couldn't even stand up. My knees were like rubber. I became a human being again."

He said Munley must have reacted the same way.

She had been directing routine traffic when she heard the radio call.

"I tell police officers that you had better always be prepared, because you don't know what the good Lord has in store for you that day," Martinez said. "Something might come up and change your life forever."

And also give Texas a 5-foot-2 hero.