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The artist at Prison Break Tattoos pushes the needle into Rommel Arias’ calf, indelibly imprinting the badge of Abigail Arias, Freeport Police Officer, Number 758.
The 7 is backwards, but it’s as it’s meant to be.
It’s in Officer Abigail’s own handwriting, and she is only 6 years old.
“To have her handwriting, man, is priceless,” Rommel says of the tattoo he’s getting in honor of his niece, who was sworn in earlier this year as an honorary officer in Freeport, Texas.
Abigail Arias is a little girl who had a big dream: to become a police officer. And in February, that dream came true.
Freeport Police Chief Raymond Garivey Jr. met Abigail back in December at the police department’s “Pancakes with Santa” event. During the meeting, the little girl expressed her desire to become a police officer when she grows up.
“You have to meet her to really understand what a great and inspiring young lady she is,” Garivey said.
Abigail has Wilms tumor, a type of kidney cancer in children.
“The chemo and radiation hasn’t worked and basically the family is now leaving it in God’s hands and praying for a miracle,” said Garivey.
Beyond the Call of Duty
So the police chief immediately put things in motion to fulfill her dream. He reached out to a company called Cop Stop to get a custom Freeport uniform specially designed for Abigail. Cop Stop’s owner, Rick Fernandez, donated the uniform to her, along with the duty rig and gun belt.
Battling “bad guys”
Abigail is wearing a huge grin and her uniform – one of two she owns, because she wears it so much – when she sidles into Prison Break Tattoos in Houston, Texas.
She swings on the prison bars that section off the tattoo shop. Owner Bryan “BK” Klevens gives her a tour of the studio, showing her the first responder patches from across the country and around the world that adorn Prison Break’s walls, as he encourages her to add her own to that collection.
Abigail’s cowboy hat has a red, white and blue emblem of Texas on it. Freeport Police Department patches are sewn on the arms and chest of her long-sleeved navy shirt and even on her cowboy boots. She wears her badge around her neck, and a flashlight and pink handcuffs dangle from her belt.
“Every day that I wake up, I just dream that I really want to be a police officer and to help fight the bad guys,” Abigail says.
The bad guys are in her lungs, she tells CNN, referring to the cancer cells she’s fighting.
The uniform, she says, “keeps me brave.”
It means a lot to the family that his niece is now a Freeport officer, says Rommel Arias.
“We actually grew up in Freeport,” he says from his prone position on the tattooing table, as the details of the badge and Abigail’s own name are inked on his leg.
“She loves her badge,” he adds, and she carries it around all the time.
So now Rommel does, too.
“Now that I’ve got your badge, I’m always going to be fighting the bad guys with you,” he tells his niece. “We’re going to beat them bad guys, baby.”
Abigail’s father, Ruben Arias, looks on, wiping tears from his eyes.
Rommel Arias researched a number of studios before he decided to go to Prison Break Tattoos, the studio Klevens opened in 2013.
Abigail’s mouth widens in surprise when Klevens reveals that he’s an officer, too, as he crouches low to show her his own badge. In addition to owning the studio, Klevens is a narcotics officer with the Houston Police Department, having spent 25 years in law enforcement.
His own sister died of cancer, making Abigail’s battle and her desire to be an officer even more personal.
“I created this tattoo studio specifically for my brothers and sisters in blue and all first responders from across the country,” he says, noting that it’s also open to the public.
People come seeking a range of tattoos, he tells CNN, from patriotic flags to memorial badges for fallen officers and helmets for fallen firefighters, to coverage for bullet and knife scars.
BK sees the studio as place of therapy for first responders and their families.
“You’re given the opportunity to tell a story, and not just any story, but a story that has defined you and your life and your career, to people who are part of that with you, to a fellow first responder,” he says. “That’s healing.”