Monday, September 24, 2018
Nation & World

Albuquerque police officer adopts a homeless drug addict’s baby after a chance encounter on duty

If Albuquerque, New Mexico Police Officer Ryan Holets had his way, this story would have never gone viral. CNN would not have learned that Holets while on duty had agreed to adopt a baby from a homeless drug addict about to shoot up heroin in broad daylight.

And CNN would have never had the chance to chronicle that encounter, drawing the attention of millions of people around the world to the story of how Holetsís family grew by one on Oct. 12.

Holets, a religious man who values his privacy, didnít do it for the attention. He did it because he felt a calling from God. He knew it was the right thing to do.

"We didnít do this to have a story," Holets said in a phone interview Tuesday. "That is entirely not why we did it, but after talking to some close friends whom I trust, we realized this was a way to put a face on the drug problem and maybe encourage other people to adopt."

On Sept. 23, Holets responded to a call about a possible theft from a convenience store in Albuquerque. By the time Holets and his recruit arrived at the scene, the suspect was no longer there, but Holets noticed some commotion on the grassy area behind the store.

Holets spotted a woman about to inject a needle into her companionís arm. The woman, 35-year-old Crystal Champ, was eight-months pregnant.

With his body camera on, Holets approached the couple and confronted them, "Why are you doing this stuff? Itís going to ruin your baby. Youíre going to kill your baby."

Champ began to sob.

"How dare you judge me? You have no idea how hard this is," Champ told CNN about how she felt. "I know what a horrible person I am. I know what a horrible situation Iím in."

In an interview with the Post, Holets acknowledged that he initially judged Champ and her partner, Tom. But he said he soon learned how badly Champ longed for her child to go a good family. He realized Champ wanted someone to adopt her baby.

Holets offered to do just that.

"His entire being changed," Champ said to CNN. "He just became a human being instead of a police officer."

Holets took about six weeks off from work and he and his wife, Rebecca, were at the University of New Mexico Hospital when Champ gave birth to a baby girl, Hope, on Oct. 12 - one month earlier than her due date.

Doctors needed to give Hope treatments and medication to help her through withdrawals ó "It was very difficult to watch," Holets said ó but she was able to leave the hospital after a week and a half.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the overall incidence of such withdrawal, known as neo-natal abstinence syndrome, has increased almost 300 percent between 1999 and 2013 in the 28 states that the 2016 study included.

"Sheís gaining weight, eating well, sleeping well," Holets said of Hope. "Weíre just praying and hoping for the best for her. As far as development goes, we wonít know the effects until sheís older."

When Sgt. Jim Edison learned what Holets did, he was floored. In his 10 years as a police officer, he has seen many "heroic acts," but none like what Holets did, Edison said.

"This guy wasnít just taking a call, he was changing everybodyís life around him," he said. "Itís so unselfish. I was just humbled."

Edison wrote a memo nominating Holets for outstanding service for the city of Albuquerque, but felt that didnít suffice. Itís his job to reward and encourage his men for doing the right thing and so Edison signed Holets up to do an interview for CNNís "Beyond the Call of Duty" series without telling Holets.

"Everyday he calls me to ask for forgiveness," Holets said with a chuckle. "And I keep assuring him that weíre fine. We didnít quite realize it would get this response, and neither did he. . . .But we all realize itís a really good thing, and some really good things can come of it."

Holets, 27, was born and raised in Albuquerque and joined the cityís police department six years ago. He and his wife already had four young children of their own before bringing Hope into their lives.

The couple had wanted to adopt a year or two down the road, and so when Holets approached his wife while on duty that day in September to break the news to her, Rebeccaís jaw dropped.

"I was shocked and surprised but just super, super excited," she said.

One of Holetsís conditions when he agreed to CNNís interview was that his superiors would not set up a GoFundMe page for the family. He instead urges those who want to offer support to find a local drug rehabilitation center or adoption organization and donate to them.

Holets has also been helping Champ and her partner find the right rehabilitation center and gave them a tablet computer so they can receive photos of Hope over email.

To Holetsís knowledge, the pair, who have not responded to a Post interview request conducted through Holets, are not clean. It was his ultimate goal from the beginning to help them through rehab.

Holets is hopeful it will happen. It seems to him meant to be.

Shortly after Holets named his baby, Champ informed him of something he didnít know. Her middle name is Hope.

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