By Besha Rodell
By Patrick Range McDonald
By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
Sources say that Bralic, besides being the middleman, was also setting up his own deal to trade 25 pounds of B.C. bud for cocaine. At the time, the exchange was 5.1 pounds of weed for one kilogram of coke.
What made Bralic turn from hometown hero into international drug smuggler? Friends and family believe it was a combination of things — partly it was being young, feeling like a hotshot and loving the rush; partly it was Bralic’s belief that he had to be “the man” and provide for his family after his father died. Some also blame the new culture of fast cash sweeping through Vancouver. Joe Ciccone believes that a lot of people in Vancouver have fallen in love with the idea of making quick money on B.C. bud with little risk of being caught or fined. Bralic, who was not rich but was far from poor, was just one of many. “A lot of people don’t think about the consequences,” says Ciccone. “I think he thought about the chance to make a little bit of money. I know right now I can quit my job and deal drugs, but for me it is not worth it. I don’t want to put myself in that position. It isn’t worth dying over.”
The last call registered on Bralic’s cell phone on July 5, 2001, came two hours and 11 minutes before his body was found at 2:08 p.m. in the alley in Fullerton. Authorities believe that Bralic met up with his killers shortly after noon in a secluded place where the sound of a gunshot would not be heard or wouldn’t rouse phone calls to the police. What happened after that is unclear. Bralic and the locals may have argued over the price, as one source says is the case. According to this source, Bralic tried to lowball the original asking price and pissed off his associates, who weren’t likely to look too kindly on a Canadian rube, no matter how large, trying to haggle with them. But one friend of Bralic’s says he believes it was a simple robbery, because there would be no consequences for the killer or killers. “There would be no recourse, because Joe was not with an organization,” says the friend. “If he was with an organization, it wouldn’t have happened. If you shoot someone from a gang, they will retaliate, especially the Hells Angels.”
Joe Ciccone believes that Bralic was being set up by Compton and his local gang associates from the start. “He was just a normal kid from Burnaby. I think that he was just a guinea pig,” Ciccone says. “Send him down there to get robbed and killed. It was an easy way to make money on the part of the guy who pulled the trigger. Joe was the type of person who would get set up and everyone else around him would know except him. It wasn’t like there were problems before and they wanted to get rid of him. He wasn’t a big drug dealer. It wasn’t an ongoing thing. I don’t think it was a deal gone bad. Would you go to a foreign city and take the chance of arguing with this guy over money?”
More than 300 people — including Bralic’s closest friends, who were recently adorned with Superman tattoos; members of the Hells Angels who had tried to recruit Bralic for Ultimate Fighting; Fullerton police, who were in town investigating; and members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police — attended Bralic’s funeral in Burnaby on July 19. His ashes were placed next to his father’s in a mausoleum at the Ocean View Burial Park in Burnaby.So long, Superman: Vlatka Bralic and Rachel Ducks' makeshift memorial to Joe is gone, but he’s not forgotten.
A week later, Vlatka Bralic and Rachel Duck flew to Los Angeles to check out the alley where the two city workers discovered Bralic’s body. Despite warnings by Discount Tire store employees that the property was private and should not be marked up, the two constructed a makeshift memorial decorated with colored candles, flowers, a Superman T-shirt, Superman comic books and a photo of Bralic. They remained at the site for hours, periodically accepting condolences from those passing by.
Today, almost three years later, there are no signs of the makeshift memorial or the killer who ended the life of 22-year-old Joe Bralic. The Fullerton Police Department says it is still investigating his death. Vlatka says she is just starting to get her life back in order. She has a new job, her first since her brother died. She says the last time she spoke to Fullerton police was more than a year ago, but she remains hopeful that one day her brother’s killer or killers will be caught. “I have faith in the police and that everyone eventually gets caught. I know that one day soon I will know everything,” she says. “I haven’t been to the grave since. I think until it is solved, I am not ready to accept that he is dead. I don’t want to see his name on a friggin’ wall.”
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