When 23-year-old Rameil Pitamber sits down for lunch with Deputy Police Chief Brian Nugent, the men discuss everything from money management and job interviews to racial tensions and avoiding prison.
Pitamber, eager to rebuild his life after serving time in prison, is hungry for the advice that Nugent, the officer who arrested him back in 2013, generously passes down to his mentee.
Pitamber, who earned good grades in high school and comes from a loving home, made a string of poor decisions as a 17-year-old grappling 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 told CBS News. “I was a follower, and one poor decision led to the next.”
After robbing a Little Caesars pizza restaurant at gunpoint, the teenager was sentenced to 11 years in prison, convicted of felony armed robbery and criminal confinement.
Pitamber’s mother, Daphne Harris, was in shock when she learned of her son’s criminal offense.
“I didn’t believe it. I just started crying immediately,” Harris said. “My son, robbing someone — that just wasn’t his character.”
While Pitamber was in prison, Harris kept in contact with Nugent, the officer who had arrested her son, to check in on Pitamber’s well-being.
In prison, Pitamber did everything in his power to stay out of trouble and become a model inmate, decisions that eventually led to his early release.
After four years in prison, Pitamber was ready to rebuild his life. He took a job at a local Goodwill in Avon, Indiana, where he happened to run into Nugent.
Nugent had entered the Goodwill to drop off a donation, and the young man recognized the officer at once.
Pitamber got up the nerve to approach Nugent, wondering if the officer would remember him.
“I finally just go up and asked him, ‘Hey, do you remember me?’ and he said, ‘Yes’,” Pitamber told WTHR.
“I gave him a hug and we reconnected from there and I asked him to be my mentor.”
Nugent said he had never formally mentored anyone, but instantly agreed to mentor Pitamber, telling the young man that they would meet every month, have lunch together, and talk about life.
Nugent was going to hold Pitamber accountable for his decisions, and Pitamber was ready and eager to soak up everything the cop had to say.
“My goal was to not go back to prison. But I didn’t 100 percent know what to do to not go back to prison,” Pitamber told CBS. “And I knew that he knew that.”
Nugent helpd Pitamber overcome the hurdles that someone coming out of prison faces — namely, how to land a job as someone with a criminal background.
Nugent taught his young student basic money management strategies, how to parallel park so he could pass a driver’s license test, how to prepare for job interviews, and how to build positive social relationships into his life while ditching the negative ones.
Pitamber, who had been taught not to trust cops and not to talk to them, found a completely opposite experience with the officer, who was generous and compassionate.
Pitamber has also learned a great deal about self-worth, gaining confidence in himself.
“I’m not just an ex-convict. I’m not just black. I’m not just Pakistani. I’m Rameil,” he said.
Harris hopes that her son’s story will help others see that from a basis of respect, worldviews can shift.
“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.”
Pitamber now holds a steady job working in heating and air, is renovating his own home, and attends school.
“I want something out of life,” he said. “I want to be successful, and I want to be truly free.”
Nugent is proud of the life Pitamber is building for himself, and proud of the success his young mentee is finding.
Pitamber is thankful to have an unlikely mentor in the man who arrested him six years ago.
“He treated me with compassion and understanding, and he never treated me less than, not once,” Pitamber said. “To this day, he still builds my worth and self esteem. With him in my corner, I can do anything.”
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.