MORGAN HILL (CBS SF) — Hundreds of people paid their final respects to California Highway Patrol Officer James Branik in a memorial service Friday afternoon at the Morgan Hill Community and Cultural Center.
Branik, 44, was killed when his 2005 Suzuki motorcycle struck the side of a 2013 Chevrolet pickup truck on the morning of Sept. 19.
Law enforcement from around the Bay Area attended Friday’s service, which lasted a little more than an hour.
Branik’s friends and family described him as a car and big-rig aficionado who enjoyed working with big-rigs and was a car collector, having owned a 1968 Chevrolet Camaro and 1964 Ford Mustang. Friends and family also said he was a quiet person with a dry sense of humor.
“It was the only time my life I saw James cry,” CHP Officer Tim Lewis recalled reminiscently about the moment when Branik’s 1964 Mustang was stolen. Lewis was one of Branik’s closest friends since his early childhood.
In addition, Branik was described as an avid basketball fan, including a big fan of the San Antonio Spurs. Lewis described the times he and Branik went and played street hoops and also recalled the time when Branik helped Leigh High School win the 1991 Central Coast Section Division 3 Championship.
“He is blue collar to blue collar,” Lewis said. “He was sort of old school.”
Lewis said Branik started at the CHP’s Gilroy Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Facility in San Martin in 2014.
Four of Branik’s nephews stood together to deliver their thoughts on their uncle.
“Heartbroken and crushed is the only to describe how I feel today,” Branik’s nephew Chris Barrera said. “James, I love you and miss you and I will see you on the other side.”
The nephews then gave Branik’s wife a gold chain as a gift to represent the bonds the family has with each other.
After Branik’s friends and nephews spoke, a slideshow of photos commemorating Branik’s life played on a television monitor.
Bagpipes played Amazing Grace after the American and California flags were delivered to Branik’s wife and the last radio call for Branik was played, ending his watch through a dispatch transmission. The combination drew tears from many in the crowd.
“We have the watch,” the transmission concluded.
Following last week’s collision, Branik’s family had asked that anyone wishing to make a monetary donation do so through the CHP 11-99 Foundation in his name at chp11-99.org.
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