Ex-con says New Jersey cop who nabbed him saved his life

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Toni Yates has the story from Seaside Heights.

After the horrific assassinations of law enforcement officers in Dallas, Texas, one ex-con, who has turned his life around, wrote publicly for the first time about the officer who sent him to prison and saved his life.

He shared his story on Facebook, and that's where one of his Facebook friends, WABC-TV Reporter Toni Yates saw it and asked to share their story.

"I was into drugs, selling them, doing them, I was facing a lot of time," Jose Olivo describes.

Olivo spoke openly about the late 90s, when he was not the family man he is today but a criminal in Seaside Heights with a determined detective sergeant looking to shut him down.

"I mean, I chased him and chased him because he was up to no good," said Detective Sgt. Tom Yannacone with Seaside Heights police.

"He was always behind me. One day he almost let me go, I almost convinced him. He opened the cell and said no, he didn't believe me, and he said, no you're going back in," Olivo recalled.

It took just five months behind bars away from family to make a mental shift.

"I didn't even think about it. I just wrote it," Olivo said.

He wrote a letter to Yannacone, the cop who busted him.

"You're probably wondering why the hell I'm writing you. The reason why, is because I want to thank you for saving my life," Yannacone read from the letter.

Yannacone kept the letter that he remembers arriving from state prison.

"With an inmate number on it, I didn't know who it was, opened it up and I was blown away," Yannacone said.

"If he didn't lock me up, I wouldn't be here right now. In a sense he saved my life...I don't think I'd be alive today," Olivo said.

In the wake of the ambush on police in Dallas, the marches, the threats against the men and women in blue, the angry language on social media, Olivo decided to post the letter on Facebook.

"Maybe this story can help people who can identify with me see that you can be okay with cops. You can help each other out," Olivo said.

Or even more, he said.

"We text each other, we are Facebook friends, and tonight he's here celebrating my 50th birthday," Yannacone said.

The mutual gratitude is overwhelming. What brought them together as crook and cop crumbled and a friendship was born.

"Who would have even thought we'd be sharing a beer?" Yannacone said. "Especially the two of us."

Both Olivo and Yannacone say there were important lessons in the letter.

"I think it helped him see criminals differently, like they can change," Olivo said.

"I mean just understand we are human too. We are held to a higher standard, but we are human too," Yannacone said.
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