After more than 20 years patrolling New York City streets with the NYPD, Maximilian Velazquez of Bay Shore hung up his dress blues in 2007 and prepared for retirement riding the open road.
The only thing missing was his vehicle of choice.
Velazquez solved that problem a few years later when he bought his gleaming Victory motorcycle and quickly moved through the ranks of various New York-area bike clubs, making new friends along the way.
So when word spread through the tight-knit clubs of motorcycle riders that the popular Velazquez died in a June 14 motorcycle crash on the Sunrise Highway in Sayville, it stunned those who considered him a brother.
"It's a major event," said Matt Penttila, the northeast regional representative for the Victory Motorcycle Club, of Velazquez's death. "When you have someone that you ride with and there is a brotherhood, and you lose somebody, it's like losing a family member."
Velazquez, 48, was killed on a morning ride after losing control of the Victory bike he bought in 2010 and hitting a guardrail, police said. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
It was a doubly sad day on that Suffolk stretch of Sunrise Highway for the NYPD and its ranks of retired officers.
Just a few hours after Velazquez's fatal crash and only 2 miles east, retired NYPD cop Michael Schuierer, 50, of East Patchogue, was killed when his Jeep SUV flipped and burst into flames after a wheel fell off, Suffolk police said.
Relatives and members of the motorcycle clubs that counted Velazquez as one of their own described him as a beloved and safety-conscious rider. Elvin Velazquez said he remains baffled by the crash because his cousin was a "very cautious driver. Not a reckless driver."
Suffolk Det. Sgt. Bryan McMenemy said an investigation into the crash is ongoing. The Suffolk County medical examiner has not released a cause of death.
Shortly after purchasing his motorcycle, Velazquez joined the local branch of the Victory Motorcycle Club, which organizes rides and charity events. He became chapter president in February.
Velazquez was also a member of the local chapter of the Blue Knights International Law Enforcement Motorcycle Club, a nonprofit for police officers that raises money for charity through fundraisers and rides.
John Burns, vice president of the local Victory club, said he and other members had plans Thursday night to "raise a toast for Max" in Deer Park.
"He kept us going," Burns said. "He was the glue that held the club together."