Christopher Bracks put his life on the line as a United States Marine in Kosovo and Iraq. He continued his service on the streets of Los Angeles County as a deputy and then sergeant with the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department. On May 10, 2022, while cycling in the Police Unity Tour to honor our nation’s fallen law enforcement officers, the 44-year-old suffered a fatal medical emergency. A life of selfless service ended.
Bracks’ death shocked his colleagues and Police Unity Tour teammates. Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said, “Sergeant Chris Bracks spent his entire adult life in the service of others, as a U.S. Marine and then a deputy sheriff. His sudden loss is tragic, and our hearts go out to his family. He will be missed!”
The Police Unity Tour is a 25-year-old nonprofit law enforcement organization that raises funds for and awareness of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial. It is the single largest contributor to the Memorial. The names of America’s fallen law enforcement officers are inscribed on the stone walls of the Memorial, which provides a place for grateful people, like Chris Bracks, to gather and honor the sacrifices of the fallen.
Gil Curtis, president of Police Unity Tour Chapter VII, the Southern California chapter Bracks rode with, described his final ride: “As we left Franklin Township in Somerset County, New Jersey, May 10th, for the start of our ride to the Memorial in Washington, D.C., I remember commenting to others on what a beautiful, clear sky we had with the wind to our backs. We rode along Canal Road and then on to the rolling hills of Somerset County working our way to the covered Sergeants Bridge. We rode through the bridge and began a climb that would lead us eventually to our stop at Washington’s Crossing. Chis and his wife, Vivian, rode together as partners. Chris stepped off his bike and took his last breath.”
Chris and Vivian, an L.A. County Sheriff’s Department custody assistant, were married in August 2021, six years after meeting on the job. Vivian said that throughout the years, Chris would tell her of his experiences on the Tour, encouraging her to ride her first Tour in May. “I was riding behind him when he fell over,” she remembered. “I thought he was messing with me, trying to fool me into thinking he was done riding.” Vivian said the Tour medics quickly responded and transported him to the hospital, but he could not be saved. “For him it was an honor doing the ride,” Vivian said. “He died doing something he loved.”
Chris Bracks lived life to the fullest, putting others before himself. “Honoring law enforcement’s fallen by cycling from New Jersey to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C., was paramount to him,” said L.A. County Sheriff’s Department Division Chief Sergio Aloma, who was part of the 47-member contingent of L.A. County deputy sheriffs cycling in the Tour. “We understand what this tour is and what it meant to Chris.”
Many might ask, why would anyone ride a bicycle from New Jersey to Washington, D.C., on a route that includes two back-to-back 100-mile days? Curtis said, “I tell people, you never really know why someone rides the Tour, some for a fallen partner, some for a member of their department, some for something deep inside them, the reasons are many.” Curtis remembers meeting Bracks some years ago at the Police Unity Tour’s arrival at the Memorial. “Chris was with the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department Honor Guard attending National Police Week … and had seen the Tour arrival. He asked, “How do you get to do that? That is how Chris came to the Tour.”
Aloma recalled sitting with Bracks and a gathering of deputies the night before May 10 and listening to him proudly speak of his 16 years with the L.A. Sheriff’s Department, his Marine deployments and the privilege of honoring law enforcement’s fallen with the Police Unity Tour. After Bracks’ passing, Aloma could not help but think of a Memorial wall inscription that states, “It is not how these officers died that made them heroes, it’s how they lived” — words befitting Bracks’ life.
Aloma met with his deputies on the evening of Bracks’ death to discuss whether to continue the Tour, which they were riding in honor of fallen L.A. County Deputy Sheriff Thomas Albanese, EOW February 25, 2021. Albanese was also a U.S. Marine with combat deployments. Aloma’s deputies did not hesitate to choose to continue, knowing that Marines complete their mission, and so would they. Aloma, also a Marine, knew Albanese and Bracks, as Marines, “would not want anything more than for us to ride.”
Vivian reminisced how Chris would say the best part of the Tour is the arrival at the Memorial, telling her how people line the streets, cheering and thanking you for honoring our fallen heroes. Vivian will never forget his passionate voice emotionally saying, “That is the reason we are there, you need to see the end. It will always be in your heart.”
D.C’s RFK Stadium is the Police Unity Tour’s final stop before the solemn ride into the Memorial. Chris’ partners told Vivian they would lead the Tour on the two-and-a-half-mile ride into the Memorial, with Loma escorting Chris’ riderless bicycle with its top tube draped with his Police Unity Tour jersey.
Vivian rode the final miles behind her husband’s riderless bicycle, finishing the Tour with her beloved Chris and leaving her with a moment that will forever be in her heart.