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Police officers will often tell you there’s no such thing as a routine call when you’re patrolling the streets.
But when Albuquerque police officer Ryan Holets responded to a possible theft at a nearby convenience store, it had all the hallmarks of a mundane assignment he could quickly clear from the call log.
It didn’t turn out that way.
As Ryan left the convenience store on September 23, he noticed out of the corner of his eye a couple sitting on the grass against a cement wall. It appeared the man and woman were shooting up heroin in broad daylight behind the convenience store.
Ryan turned on his body camera and approached the couple but he wasn’t prepared for what he saw. The woman was in the middle of injecting a needle into her companion’s arm. Then he noticed the woman was pregnant.
“It’s not every day I see a sight like that and it just made me really sad,” he told CNN.
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Crystal Champ, 35, looked slightly dazed and agitated in the body camera footage as you hear Ryan begin to scold her. She told the officer that she was almost 8 months pregnant and addicted.
“You’re going to kill your baby,” Ryan is heard saying on the bodycam footage. “Why do you have to be doing that stuff?” It’s going to ruin your baby.”
In the video, Champ is seen breaking down in tears after hearing this. She told CNN the officer’s words cut deeply because, even though she’s pro-choice, the idea of having an abortion was never an option for her.
“I was like how dare you judge me. You have no idea how hard this is,” Champ told CNN. “I know what a horrible person I am and what a horrible situation I’m in.”
’He became a human being instead of a police officer’
Champ, who has battled addiction since she was a teenager, sat down for an interview with CNN outside of a tent where she currently lives in Albuquerque.
Champ has been homeless for more than two years. She detailed a life time of battling heroin and crystal meth addiction and how the drug controls every moment of her life, spending up to $50 a day on scoring hits of heroin simply so she can “get well.” She’s tried multiple times to get clean, but failed.
“I did give up. I just decided this was going to be my life,” Champ said. “It just keeps coming back and ruining my life.”
In the body camera footage, Ryan questions Champ and her companion for almost 11 minutes. He focused on Champ and tried to figure out whether she fully understood the danger drug use was inflicting on her unborn child.
In the course of the conversation, Champ emotionally told Ryan that she desperately hoped someone would adopt her baby. Champ says the words triggered a change in the officer’s demeanor.
“He became a human being instead of a police officer,” Champ said.
Ryan made the call to not charge the couple with drug possession but he couldn’t shake the voice in his mind telling him that this was his chance to help and truly make a difference.
Ryan showed Champ a picture of his wife and four children, including a 10-month old baby and in that moment offered to adopt her baby.
“I was led by God to take the chance,” Ryan said. “God brought us all together. I really don’t have any other way to explain it.”
Champ was stunned and says she looked at him to “make sure his eyes were genuine and that I could see his soul.” She realized instantly, her prayers had been answered.
But there was one problem, Ryan offered to adopt Champ’s baby but had not told his wife about it.
Rebecca Holets was just a few miles away at a going-away party for a friend. Ryan jumped in his police car and drove over to the party to break the news.
Ryan walked up to his wife, who was holding their 10-month old baby, and said he had just met a pregnant woman who was shooting up heroin and that he offered to adopt the baby.
The couple had discussed adopting a child in the future but were waiting for their youngest child to grow a little older. When Ryan delivered the shocking news at the party, Rebecca never hesitated.
“He already knew my heart on the issue and he knew that I would be totally onboard with it,” Rebecca said.
The Holets say they see many in the world around them who desperately need stability. They know they can’t help every child, but Rebecca knew she could take on the challenge of raising another baby.
“We feel God has called us to do that,” Rebecca said. “It’s been on our hearts for a while.”
On October 12th, Crystal Champ gave birth to a baby girl and the Holets family named her Hope.
Ryan was at the hospital for the delivery and he kept thinking back to the surreal turn of events that brought a young police officer to this moment with a pregnant, homeless heroin user.