AUSTIN, Texas - If you ask his wife Michelle, Investigator Mark Brown was like a gentle giant.
“There he is a big burly man he was 6’0, 300 pounds give or take and he's smiling in a field of bluebonnets,” she said, describing a photo he took in a field of bluebonnets.
There isn't a day she doesn't think of her husband. We've been married this November would have been 22 years and we have four children together,” she said.
Most recently, Brown worked at the Harris County Constable's Office. He had been in law enforcement for 23 years, before losing his battle with COVID-19 on July 25. Michelle knows her husband was infected on the job.
“I work for a school district and we had basically been sequestered in our home, children were all in school at the time. I was at home with them day in and day out and the only one going back and forth was him. No one else outside our family developed it, no other friends,” said Brown.
She is one of the several families who lost an officer to COVID-19. They showed up at the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas building and walked to the Capitol grounds, where the peace officers memorial stands. It's a place they are hoping to find their loved ones' names engraved one day.
“Right now is this fight to get his death designated a line of duty, along with every other law enforcement person who doesn't have that designation,” said Rachel Vega, wife of Sheriff Abraham Vega of Lynn County.
“What is happening now is each individual family after the death or doing time of this health crisis they have to go try to prove the infection, exposure happened on the job,” said Charley Wilkison, executive director of CLEAT.
CLEAT has been pushing for the governor to make COVID-19 related deaths presumptive.
“The fair thing to do is presume. We wouldn’t say to an emergency room nurse I wonder how you got COVID, well we are going to know. You're not going to ask a coal miner how did you get black lung?” said Wilkison.
It's a designation that would give families like Nichelle Brown’s and Rachel Vegas' comfort and support. “Abraham was somebody who served his county for almost 30 years. His whole entire life was serving Lynn County. I want to make sure he is honored,” said Vegas.
CLEAT said if the designation is executed by the governor, they hope to include all first responders, not just law enforcement.
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