PHOENIX — “I’m incredibly nervous, I’m shaking right now,” said Joshua Campbell Tuesday.
Joshua was just moments away from seeing the man who changed his life a little over three years earlier.
“This is obviously all about second chances so when I see this place, that’s all I feel is that I got that second chance,” said Joshua in reference to the Circle K gas station over his right shoulder.
Back in 2017, Joshua, 27 at the time, was hooked on drugs, living out of his car after pushing away his friends and family.
“All I had were friends that used, and those aren’t friends at all,” said Joshua.
“There was one Christmas, where I had actually claimed to have blown a tire and I couldn’t get a replacement and I was way out of reach in Northwest Peoria and my families in Gilbert just to say I couldn’t be there. And if they wanted to drive me or pick me up, I was like I’m too far away I’m sorry I’ll see you guys next year. Just to go get high. It’s a hole you dig that you don’t even see the bottom.”
However, the rock bottom would be found in a Circle K parking lot. Joshua was passed out high behind the wheel with drugs in the vehicle. A Phoenix Police officer named Damian Baynes knocked on his window. The officer was called to the area after gunshots were heard but it would be the gas station clerk who pointed the officer in the direction of Joshua’s car that hadn’t moved in hours.
“I tried to lie my way out of it but the officer was pretty sharp, he didn’t believe any story I said and at one point was like cut the crap, please tell me the truth, and I did,” said Joshua.
Joshua revealed he’d come from a good, supportive family but fell into the trap of addiction anyway. He’d lost the people closest to him and sold all his possessions just to fuel his habit. While being booked into jail, Officer Baynes opened up as well, making a heartfelt admission that would change the course of Joshua’s life.
“It was that he felt like he wasn’t accomplishing anything as an officer, he would see the same faces going through the system over and over and over, without any change, and he just felt helpless,” said Joshua.
The words seared into Joshua’s brain, lighting a fire of motivation that led him to enter into a pretrial agreement. He’d go to rehab, achieve sobriety and the charges were eventually dropped. On Tuesday, the two men met again for the first time since that day.
“Officer Baynes,” said Joshua as they approached one another.
“How ya doin,” said Officer Baynes.
“I’m not sure if you remember me and I would totally understand if you didn’t,” said Joshua.
At 31, sober for over three years now, Joshua hugged the officer as his mom and dad teared up beside them. During this meeting though, it would be Joshua who had a message for Officer Baynes.
“I’m here today to shake your hand and look you in the eyes to say thank you from the bottom of mine and all of my family's hearts for doing your job that day, and every day,” said Joshua reading a letter he wrote. “You may not be able to help or save everyone you come across, but I want you to know and understand the value of what you gave back to me.”
Joshua then presented the officer with a Christmas gift, a display frame holding his sobriety coins. There are three so far, but spaces for another 21, which he intends to send each year until the display is filled. He also handed the officer a picture from the night of the arrest along with a recent one surrounded by family.
“There’s a handful of people I’ve ran across after 20 years that I’ve had some moments but not like this,” said Officer Baynes. “I’m so appreciative of today and that your family has been able to be here with you and see you through this journey. You should be very proud.”
For Joshua, his goal is to make sure moments like this from law enforcement are noticed more often, embracing his new life and hero one day at a time.
“Who they effect in positive or negative ways, they’re not always gonna know that. They make splashes and the ripples do what they do to the people around them,” said Joshua. “I just want him to know his waves make a difference and that ripple, I’m one of them.”