Before Albuquerque policeman Ryan Holets and his family headed into the airport on Sunday, Sgt. Jim Edison gave the officer a big hug.
“I’m proud of you, and I love you,” Edison said to Holets. “I’ll see you soon.”
Extraordinary events have transpired since Holets joined Edison’s squad in the summer of 2017, but neither man could have predicted the latest turn of events.
On Tuesday night, Holets and his wife, Rebecca, were special guests of President Trump and first lady Melania Trump during the State of the Union address. In December, CNN published a story about Holets’ decision to adopt the baby of a pregnant, homeless drug addict he had encountered while on duty. Three of Holets’ five children also made the trip to Washington, including the baby girl, Hope, who was in attendance at the address.
“As we have seen tonight, the most difficult challenges bring out the best Americans,” Trump said during his address, as the crowd gave Holets and his wife a standing ovation. “Ryan and Rebecca, you embody the goodness of our nation. Thank you.”
The White House said in a news release Monday that Holets is “breaking down walls between drug addicts and police officers to help save lives.”
Trump declared the nation’s opioid epidemic a public health emergency in October. On Tuesday, he spent a portion of his address saying criminals and gang members from across the Mexican border are part of the larger drug problem, before turning his attention to the Holets family seated directly to the left of Melania.
“My administration is committed to fighting the drug epidemic to help get treatment to those in need, to those who have been terribly hurt,” Trump said.
The story of how Holets, 27, came to adopt his baby started when he responded to a routine call about a possible theft from a convenience store in Albuquerque last September. After arriving, Holets noticed a couple in the grassy area behind the store about to shoot up heroin.
He confronted the woman, Crystal Champ, who was about eight months pregnant at the time.
“Why are you doing this stuff? It’s going to ruin your baby,” Holets recalled telling her. “You’re going to kill your baby.”
After some discussion, Holets realized that Champ wanted someone to adopt her baby. Holets and his wife had spoken about adoption, and he saw this moment as a sign. He told Champ that he wanted to adopt her baby.
Champ gave birth to Hope on Oct. 12, one month earlier than her due date, and doctors treated the baby for heroin withdrawal.
Holets said in a December interview that Hope was showing promising signs. Edison said that Hope “looked beautiful” when he saw her Sunday.
“She’s gaining weight, eating well, sleeping well,” Holets said in December. “We’re just praying and hoping for the best for her. As far as development goes, we won’t know the effects until she’s older.”
Holets also recently started a GoFundMe page to help Champ and her partner, Tom Key, pay for drug rehabilitation. Initially, the couple were reluctant to get help, Holets said, but they eventually entered a live-in rehabilitation center.
The fundraiser has raised $4,143 of its goal of $10,000 as of Tuesday and will go toward providing Champ and Key “with housing after they graduate the program within the next couple of months so that they can continue to receive necessary and vital treatment,” according to Holets.
Holets, who was born and raised in Albuquerque and joined the city’s police department in 2011, said he now has a deeper understanding of the addiction issues that plague Albuquerque and the people who suffer from them.
“This event has changed me substantially,” Holets told The Post in December. “It changed the way I look at people who are addicted to drugs. Now that I have a relationship with someone going through that, I have compassion and empathy to their situation, rather than coming in full of judgment.”
This post has been updated.
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