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COP CHOPPER BIKE HONORS FALLEN BURBANK POLICE OFFICERS.

Byline: Jason Kandel Staff Writer

BURBANK - For the last month, Mike Powers has been meticulously shaping by hand his latest masterpiece - a custom motorcycle with a futuristic-looking frame and teardrop gas tank.

But it's the five names painted on the rear fender that makes this chopper special.

Powers created the motorcycle in honor of Luther Colson, Robert L. Normand, Joseph R. Wilson, Richard E. Kunkle and Matthew Pavelka - all Burbank police officers who died in the line of duty.

``These guys go out there and put their lives on the line on a daily basis for us,'' said Powers, 47, who operates Powers Custom Cycles in Burbank. ``How many people give back to them? It makes me feel really good. It's one of the best things that I could possibly do.''

The motorcycle could sell for $30,000 - 20 percent of which Powers will donate to the families of fallen Burbank officers.

The motorcycle means everything to Pavelka's father, Mike, himself a motorcycle enthusiast, who still thinks about his rides up the coast with his son.

``I probably still think about Matt a thousand times a day,'' said Mike Pavelka, a Los Angeles Police Department detective. ``I try to think about the great times we had together. I'm sure that this would be something that Matt would be excited about.''

Powers, an East Los Angeles native, has 20 years of experience building low-rider cars and custom motorcycles. He works on the chopper in his garage in an industrial strip off Victory Boulevard.

Almost finished, the motorcycle will get a Burbank Police Department badge airbrushed onto it, a Burbank Police Department patch stitched to the seat and six-shooters attached to the handlebars.

Painted pearl white, light blue and black, the motorcycle has a 115- horsepower S&S engine and six-speed transmission that could let it do 130 mph, Powers said.

It's even as close to ``police issue'' as possible, with flashing lights on the rear fender and front fork and a siren. When it's done, it'll have a bullhorn.

Powers' affection for true-blue police came after Pavelka, 26, was killed in November 2003 in a gunbattle with two suspected gang members outside a Burbank hotel. Fellow Burbank Officer Gregory Campbell was wounded.

Suspected gang member Ramon Aranda, 25, of Sun Valley died, and David A. Garcia, 22, was captured in Mexico after a massive manhunt. Jailed without bail, Garcia is awaiting trial on a murder charge.

Powers and his wife, Tonya, who handles the paperwork at the garage, attended the funeral for Pavelka, the first Burbank officer to be killed by gunfire in 83 years. They also rode with family members and fellow officers during a tribute motorcycle ride.

``That's when I realized just how our lives ... you know, we could be gone tomorrow,'' said Powers, who has three daughters ages 25, 17 and 10.

The last Burbank officer to die from a bullet was Normand, shot July 30, 1920. Colson was killed by gunfire on Nov. 16, 1914. In 1961, two Burbank motorcycle officers, Wilson and Kunkle, died in vehicle crashes three months apart.

Powers said he was lucky to have met Pavelka, a rookie officer who had a love for motorcycles. About a year before he was killed, Pavelka paid a visit to Powers' former garage on Virginia Street to check out choppers.

``He was like probably one of the kindest, coolest dudes I've ever met,'' Powers said.

Powers has since struck up friendships with several of Pavelka's colleagues, who regularly stop by his Chestnut Street garage during their breaks from patrol.

``Every Monday, Tuesday, I usually have a few cops down here hanging out just shooting the bull,'' Powers said. ``They have a good time down here, man. Beats the hell out of a donut shop, don't it?''

Burbank Officer Larry Hill, a Harley-Davidson devotee, brought Powers the Burbank Police Department patch that will be sewn into the seat.

``It's to keep the memory alive,'' said Hill, a 25-year department veteran who visits the garage every day. ``I think it's a great bike.''

Jason Kandel, (818) 546-3306

jason.kandel(at)dailynews.com

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2 photos

Photo:

(1 -- 2) Mike Powers shows off the motorcycle he is building at his Burbank shop to honor police officers killed in the line of duty.

Evan Yee/Staff Photographer
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Feb 27, 2006
Words:718
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