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November 23, 2014

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Young police volunteers turn out to honor one of their own

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Bethany Barnes

Metro Explorers hold a car wash fundraiser Saturday, Aug. 3, 2013, at Brake Masters on South Eastern Avenue to help with funeral expenses for Angel Velasquez’s family.

Metro Explorers' Car Wash Fundraiser

Metro Explorers hold a car wash fundraiser Saturday, Aug. 3, 2013, at Brake Masters on South Eastern Avenue to help with funeral expenses for Angel Velasquez's family. Launch slideshow »

The brightly colored car wash signs sat slumped in the shade as numerous young volunteers with Metro Police rushed to clean a constant stream of cars at Brake Masters on South Eastern Avenue near Windmill Lane.

The volunteers were Metro Police Explorers, who turned out en masse to raise money for the funeral of their friend, a young man known for never missing an Explorer event.

Angel Velasquez was a captain in Metro Police's Explorer program, which teaches young people about law enforcement. He died on Aug. 1 when his motorcycle crashed on East Sahara Avenue. Velasquez, 19, slammed on his brakes to avoid hitting a Volkswagen that failed to stop at a stop sign. He crashed into the car and died from his injuries, according to the police report. Jvon Lawrence Williams, 29, was arrested that night on suspicion of hit-and-run and driving under the influence, police said.

Velasquez had devoted himself to anything related to police work since joining the Explorers at 16. Whether that meant simple traffic direction, answering a late night text message question from a teammate or his favorite — ridealongs with Metro, Velasquez was excited for the opportunity.

He wanted to know everything about being an officer. While most Explorers take one or two years to make captain, Velasquez earned the rank in months, adviser Andrea King said. He scored a rare 98 percent on the exam.

King, who works in dispatch, would often hear his voice on the police radio. He usually stayed for the full 10-hour shift, she said.

Fellow Explorer Cesar Miranda, 20, remembers that going on ridealongs with police was an inspiration for Velasquez; they reminded Velasquez why he wanted to join the force, Miranda said.

Miranda, a captain like Velasquez, said he admired the leadership Velasquez provided. Explorers knew him as someone they could count on: Can’t remember where to stand? Ask Angel. Missed a meeting? Angel has notes.

His dedication impressed many Explorers. He found ways to be at everything while also studying criminal justice at the College of Southern Nevada and working at In-N-Out Burger.

Explorer Cristian Mojarro, 18, described him as the heart of his team. Confident but never stuck-up, Velasquez gave instructions in clear, simple terms, he said. When he first joined, Velasquez went out of his way to welcome him, something other Explorers said he did for them, too.

He had a keen sense for how to navigate the serious and the silly, Mojarro said. He was funny, dedicated and always available to answer a question.

Several Explorers said they struggled with the senselessness of his death. Some noted that the car wash, which raised more than $5,000, felt surreal since it was the first event without him.

The Explorers will be holding another car wash to help cover funeral expenses from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday at Abuela’s Tacos at 4225 E Sahara Ave. near South Lamb Boulevard.

A public visitation for Velasquez will be Aug. 6 between 3 and 7 p.m. at Palm Mortuary at 1325 N. Main St. A funeral service will be Aug. 7 from 12:30 to 2 p.m. at Trinity Life Center at 1000 E. St. Louis Ave.

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