LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) - A Lexington man credits a fateful run in with police two years ago for saving his life. Now, he hopes to seek out the officer who made a difference in his life and thank him face-to-face.
Lee Stiltner was a displaced coal-miner from Pike County who had lost his job and his hope. He had lost all contact with his family, had burned most of his bridges and was caught in a hopeless cycle of addiction that left him cold and hungry on the streets.
He had been roaming the streets of Lexington and living in the Hope Center as he battled the demon of alcoholism.
"I had some drug problems in the past...but then I was strictly an alcoholic...a 'sit on the corner playing my guitar so I can buy a bottle kinda guy'," Stiltner recounted of the troubling time in his life.
Stiltner tells LEX 18 that one night in September of 2015, he had just been jumped on the streets of Lexington and severely beaten by a group of men. He didn't want to go to the police for fear of retaliation.
Bleeding and intoxicated, he began walking toward Good Samaritan Hospital. That's when a fateful run in with Officer Grider of the Lexington Police changed the trajectory of his life.
Grider was patrolling and saw Stiltner stumbling down the road.
"(Grider) stopped...and asked me to get in his car and I declined. He said 'you need help and I'm not going to arrest you.'" Stiltner remembers.
The officer took Stiltner to Good Samaritan for detox and, as he tells it, something in that act of kindness triggered Stiltner's will to live. Grider had stopped and talked to Stiltner many times when he was out on the street so the two were familiar with one another, if not close friends.
"He told me I was too smart to be there and that I needed to do better for myself," Stiltner remembers.
He then went to Recovery Works in Georgetown and Stepping Stones for Men to work on his sobriety. Stiltner had just become a father, and he decided with a clear head to be a better father to his son.
He saw Officer Grider a few months later but says he never got the opportunity to thank him.
"I just want to thank him. I used to hate police officers and I have never been able to thank him," Stiltner told LEX 18, "he changed the course of my life."
Stiltner has celebrated a full year of sobriety and is now married with two children. He works full-time.
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