Copyright © 2017 Albuquerque Journal
A chance encounter with a pregnant heroin addict and a lawman’s quick decision to adopt her baby has people calling Albuquerque police officer Ryan Holets a hero, but he says that honor belongs to someone else.
“My wife is the true hero,” the 27-year-old said during a small ceremony at City Hall on Monday. “I brought the baby home, but she takes care of the baby.”
The baby, who Ryan and Rebecca Holets named Hope, was born Oct. 12. She had heroin and crystal meth in her system and had to endure detox for about two weeks, suffering withdrawal symptoms.
Mayor Tim Keller presented an Outstanding Service to the Community award to Holets at the ceremony, calling him a hero and role model. Holets’ story has garnered national attention, with stories about his act of kindness featured on CNN and in The Washington Post.
“We did not expect it would go this big,” he said. “We are thankful the message is getting out. That it’s putting a face on addiction.”
It was a September afternoon when Holets responded to a call in the area and came upon a man and a woman behind a convenience store near Montgomery and Carlisle. They were shooting up heroin.
The woman, Crystal Champ, 35, also happened to be eight months pregnant.
Holets was stunned. In his lapel cam video Holets can be heard asking Champ if she’s pregnant and how far along she is. She tells him eight months.
“Oh my gosh,” he says. ” … Why are you gonna be doing that stuff? It’s going to ruin your baby. It’s going to kill your baby.”
Champ breaks down in tears at that point. Holets said at that moment he softened.
He decided it would be better to focus on what he could do for the couple and the baby instead of simply arresting them on drug charges.
“She cared,” he said. “I’ve met addicts who don’t care what happens to their babies. That really got me.”
The two began a conversation about Champ’s addiction and the impending birth of her child. She told Holets that she knew she was in no position to have a child and hoped to find someone to adopt the baby.
Holets said that while he’s seen a lot as an officer, this situation rattled him. After speaking to her, he went and sat in his patrol car for a few minutes.
“I was compelled by God to go back and offer to adopt her baby,” he said.
Holets went back and told Champ about his family, that he had a wife, a 5-year-old daughter, twin boys who are almost 4, and a year-old girl.
He offered to adopt the baby, but he said Champ did not immediately accept his offer.
Holets gave Champ his contact information and knew there was something else he needed to do immediately.
He had not discussed his offer to adopt with his wife, Rebecca. She was at a going-away party nearby, so he drove right over to tell her.
Rebecca Holets said she was not angry that her husband had made a life-changing decision without her because the two had already decided to adopt or foster children. They just hadn’t decided when and how.
But fate worked out the details for them. Rebecca Holets said she was absolutely excited about the prospect of adopting.
“He walked in and said, ‘So I met this lady today,’ ” she recalled. “I thought that was an interesting choice of words. He said, ‘She’s shooting up heroin and eight months pregnant. I agreed to adopt her baby.’ ”
Ryan Holets said he and his wife initially offered to foster the baby until her mother could go to rehab and get clean, but it was not something Champ was ready to do.
The Holetses eventually took Champ to dinner so that she could meet Rebecca and they could discuss the baby’s future.
Rebecca said, “When you see situations like this, it’s important to see everyone as a human being. We saw her as a human being who was trapped and loved her baby.”
The adoption will become final by the end of the year.
The Holetses agreed to pay for counseling for Champ and the father of her baby, who was the man seen in the video, in addition to attorney’s fees for the adoption. The Holetses also had to undergo an intense investigative home study that included interviews, several home visits and filling out paperwork detailing their backgrounds and the reasons they wanted to adopt.
Ryan Holets was raised with nine siblings, so a big family is nothing new to him. Rebecca had two siblings, but she was open to having a large family, saying that her mother-in-law was her inspiration. Both of the Holetses’ mothers attended the award ceremony at City Hall.
The Holetses met as teens at church, started dating in college and married not long after that.
Ryan Holets joined the police academy six years ago, when he was 21, after a short stint as an aviation mechanic.
“I wasn’t planning on growing it (his family) this fast,” he said. “But God has changed my heart. We view children as a blessing.”