In 1978, the James City County Police Department lost an officer who was killed in the line of duty. Sgt. Earl Heisler was killed during a traffic stop, leaving behind a wife and newborn child.
On Saturday, county law enforcement — along with police from across the country — began a bicycle trek to honor fallen officers and give families like Heisler’s the support they need in a time of tragedy.
Hundreds of riders came through Williamsburg on their 250-mile journey from Chesapeake to Washington, D.C. They are riding for Law Enforcement United, an organization that honors sacrifices and offers support services to families, coworkers and communities across America.
The local team has 11 members total, eight who are braving the ride and three who function as support along the way. All but one are from the James City County Police Department, and they help make up the about 400 riders participating in this year’s journey over three days.
Police Chief Bradley Rinehimer watched the group lead the way into a stop at the county station Saturday afternoon. He said it gives him goosebumps to see them ride in, knowing their purpose.
“What they do to help respect those who have given the ultimate sacrifice is just amazing,” he said.
Officer Jimmie Reardon, who participated in the last three years with LEU, said he got chills making his way through jurisdictions and seeing an outpouring of support for the riders. He was sitting out this ride but was at the station to cheer on his fellow police cyclists.
Many riders participate multiple years; this is the eighth trip for Chaplain Sam Frye. He led the Office Down Memorial ceremony at the police station before riders set out to complete the 120 miles slated for the first day.
It is the second LEU ride for team captain Jennifer Tackes, who appreciates the welcome the group receives when they arrive at her station.
“I like riding into James City,” she said. “It’s home for us.”
She said the community has been had a heavy involvement in the effort this year, pushing the local team above their $9,000 fundraising goal.
What has not been kind was this year’s harsh winter. It was tough for the group’s training regimen, forcing them to spend more time in the gym and less outside on the bike. Tackes was not looking forward to the hills in Northern Virginia, and the endurance needed to conquer them.
“They say what comes up always goes down but that’s not always the case. Whatever goes up keeps going up,” she said of the area.
Once they make it to Washington, D.C., riders will present themselves to the family of the officer each is individually riding to honor. Tackes is riding to honor a man from Mississippi who had a wife and three daughters in a small, close-knit community.
He is her motivation – to push past muscle cramps and fatigue – to pedal all 250 miles.