By Brian Smith
Special to the Sun
I was playing ice hockey one afternoon with a bunch of guys and when we returned to the locker room, we noticed that someone stole about five of our cell phones and other items. We reported it to the police and they were not able to locate the suspect. I continued to follow-up. Without discussing any of the details, I located the location of my phone about 9:30 that evening. I called the police detectives, but they could not respond. I called a detective from my own agency and he said he would meet me there. I had my unmarked patrol car at home and so I headed in that direction to see if I could at least see the neighborhood. As I approached the location, a bunch of guys were exiting a van. I stopped and ordered them to stand still just as my detective pulled up. I ran the license plate of the van and it returned as a stolen vehicle. There were two expensive bicycles in the back, amounts of methamphetamine, syringes, and our five cell phones. A few city police cars arrived and took over the investigation since the original theft occurred in their city.
One of the officers called me over to the main suspect and told me the guy wanted to talk to me. I asked him what he wanted. He had tattoos all up his neck and some on his face. He asked me if I remembered him. He told me he played hockey with me years ago and he used to coach his son’s team. I did not remember him. He told me he was a drug addict, he was separated and his wife would not let him see his son. He said he went to the ice rink to reminisce, but then decided to see if he could steal anything to buy drugs. He told me how sorry he was and asked if I forgave him.
I told him he wasn’t sorry he stole the items, he was just sorry he got caught. He told me he was desperate and he was truly sorry. I started to walk away when he repeated, “Do you forgive me? I truly am sorry.” I turned around and told him that I did not forgive him. I then told him if he wanted me to forgive him, he had to clean up his act, get off drugs and straighten up his life. I then walked away.
Approximately two years later, I was at an AHL hockey game at our main arena when a guy with a little boy approached me and called my name. I could see “faded” tattoos on his neck and face. He asked me if I remembered him. Since I did some work at drug treatment center in the past, I asked if he was from that place. He said, “No Sir. I am the one who stole your cell phone. I always remembered what you said about not forgiving me unless I straightened out my life, so I got off drugs, took classes, I am having my tattoos removed, I got a job, I’m working things out with my wife, and she allows me to take my son places. I came to a couple games figuring I would eventually see you here.” I was totally shocked. He looked at me and said, “Do you forgive me now?” I instinctively just reached out, hugged him and said, “Absolutely. I am very proud of you.” We talked a little longer and I can tell you we both left that meeting with tears in our eyes. It was one of the highlights of my career.