Over six years ago, Rameil Pitamber was a 17-year old honor student who was dealing with the death of his father.
“I was lost. I had a lot to prove. And I felt like to prove it, I had to be tough,” Pitamber said, as reported by CBS News. “I was a follower, and one poor decision led to the next.”
Pitamber robbed a Little Caesars restaurant at gunpoint, with the assistance of a friend who worked there. He was detained and convicted of a felony armed robbery and criminal confinement. He was sentenced to 11 years in prison.
“I didn’t believe it. I just started crying immediately,” said Pitamber’s mother, Daphne Harris. “My son, robbin’ someone […] that just wasn’t his character.”
The officer who arrested Pitamber, Brian Nugent, remembers the arrest well, and said that Pitamber was “memorable.” Nugent is a deputy police chief in Avon, Indiana.
During her son’s imprisonment, Harris made sure to stay in contact with Nugent.
“I needed him to know that he wasn’t just another kid in trouble,” Harris said. “I needed him to know that, you know, he has a home, he has a family, he has a support system. This is who my son is.”
Pitamber was released prematurely because of good behavior, and he desired to get into home improvement and real estate. But he wanted a mentor to help him. While he was working at Goodwill one day, Pitamber recognized Nugent when he dropped off a donation.
“I just asked him. Like, ‘Hey, are you Detective Brian?’ Pitamber recalled. “I was just like, ‘Hey, it’s me. How you doing?’”
The fact that Nugent was a police officer meant a lot to Pitamber. “My goal was to not go back to prison. But I didn’t 100% know what to do to not go back to prison,” he said. “And I knew that he knew that.”
Nugent said he told Pitamber that he’d be “happy to do it.” But there were guidelines: “we’re gonna touch base every month. We’re gonna go out for lunch. We’re gonna have conversations.”
Nugent and Pitamber talked about finding a job and answering questions skillfully about his past. After having conversations with Nugent, Pitamber said that he saw things this way: “If I view myself as less then Rameil, than I’m less than Rameil…. I can’t be mad at you [if you] treat me how I treat myself.”
“I’m not ex-convict. I’m not just black. I’m not just Pakistani. I’m Rameil,” he added.
The guidance from Nugent changed Pitamber’s mind about cops. Growing up, he said, he was taught “Never to talk to ‘em, never to trust ‘em,” and that “They lie, they arrest you.” But now he’s had firsthand experience, and “that’s not the case.”
“I hope that people can see, with everything that is going on, is all it takes is respect on both sides,” Harris said. “It’s more good kids out there than bad. It’s more good police out there than bad.”
Rameil currently has a consistent job doing heating and air. He’s also refurbishing his own home and attending school. “I want something outta life,” he said. “I wanna be successful, and I wanna be truly free.”
“I think the change that I see the most in him is his confidence,” Nugent said. “There’s no better reward in this job than helping somebody succeed and achieve those goals in their life.”
Pitamber is very thankful for his unlikely mentor. “He treated me with compassion and understanding, and he never treated me less than, not once. To this day, he still builds my worth and self-esteem,” he said. “With him in my corner, I can do anything.”
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