GENESEE COUNTY (WJRT) (5/20/2019) - From ambulance thief to drug court graduate, Eric Dukes has successfully completed the Genesee County Felony Adult Drug Court program.
"You run out of money, you run of out family, you run out of friends, you run out of everything, until you hit rock bottom; and then, I found an ambulance," Dukes told the courtroom.
On Thanksgiving Day in 2017, Dukes stole an ambulance on East Parkwood Avenue in Burton. The paramedics had just run into the home.
Dukes was caught 4 blocks away after hitting his head on the metal hook the doors lock into.
"I just want to say I'm really sorry for what I did," he said.
Dukes explained he's found clarity over the past 16 months, while undergoing the program.
"Just getting off drugs, it was the hardest part; but then, real life comes at you. So, you have to deal with that. And, that was one of the reasons I did drugs for so long 'cause I didn't - I didn't want to deal with life," he said.
Dukes explained he watched his wife overdose and die a few years ago. Not knowing how else to cope, he chose heroin.
"You know, with my lawyer, the prosecutor, the judge, everybody in the drug court program, I can't thank them enough," he said. "Because they gave me so many chances. You know, and I thought I was done. But that ain't the way this program works. It's to help me."
He also credits his two employers who have stuck by him.
Dukes said he doesn't even recognize the man in that mugshot anymore.
"That is a person that perhaps we didn't know at the beginning whether he would be able to do it," Judge Mark Latchana said. "And, I never say never; because people like Mr. Dukes would prove me wrong, each and every time."
"I feel a lot better," Dukes laughed.
It's a feeling he plans to make lasting.
"You know, I won't have anybody to look over my shoulder; and you know, my biggest test starts after today, so it's all on me now. And, I'm just gonna continue to go the way I'm going," Dukes said.