PLEASANT GROVE, Utah (ABC4) — We’re seeing firsthand the difference a school resource officer can make in a struggling student’s life. A former student in Pleasant Grove shared with ABC4 how he leaned on his school resource officer when he felt there was no one else, in this episode of Behind the Badge.  

Today, Kristian Luttmer is feeling a lot of love from his alma mater at Pleasant Grove High School. His former teammates on the swim team were happy to see him, filled with smiles and lots of hugs, but it was once a school he didn’t warmly embrace.

“I’d normally sit alone. So, I didn’t really have friends, and considering how big I am and then my voice. I sit alone and most people don’t bother,” said Kristian Luttmer, former Pleasant Grove High School student.

Luttmer, 6’5″, was born with a speech impediment and is deaf in one ear. He never felt like he fit in and often struggled with low self-esteem.

“I hated myself. I never attempted suicide, well, I didn’t really think about it, but it was in the back of my mind, like what if I did? Would people miss me?” said Luttmer.

At the start of his senior year, Luttmer’s assistant swim coach Chris Ruiz, who’s also the school resource officer, noticed his lack of friends and decided to get to know him.

“I said ‘Listen man, you’re going to kill it this year, you’re going to do great things. I’m excited to work with you. By the way, my name is Officer Ruiz,'” said Pleasant Grove Police Department Detective Chris Ruiz.

Although the two would talk, not much became of it until tragedy stuck Luttmer’s family.

“My brother took his life, and I didn’t miss a single day of school. I showed up on the first day of school and I went to the library with my friends and hung out before class, and I had my head down, slumped in my arms,” said Luttmer.

“He was kind of slumped over. He just seemed very emotional, very distraught; I quietly pulled him in my direction. I didn’t even have to say anything. I looked at him. I embraced him, and I said ‘I’m so sorry for your loss, let’s go to my office, let’s talk,'” said Ruiz.

That talk, and others in his office after, became a foundation of friendship.

“(We) talked about swim, talked about girls, if I liked anyone.  We talked about a lot of stuff,” said Luttmer.

“He opened himself up, and I could see where it affected me, where it was like ‘Wow, I’m actually making a positive impact on this individual’s life,'” said Ruiz.

Ruiz started to see a change in Luttmer. He got invited to prom and connected more with everyone on the swim team. What once were dark thoughts slowly shifted to moments of laughter, and a bond, almost like family.

“I really, really love him, he’s a great person. Whenever I see him, I just want to give him a great hug,” said Luttmer.

That love he said gave him hope and a friend.  

“If he says I had a part in that, and it kept him at bay from going down a slippery slope of negativity or things of that nature then I’m blessed I really am,” Ruiz said.

Now a lasting relationship both feel they can embrace. 

Luttmer is now enrolled at Utah Valley University. Even though he’s not in high school anymore, he and Officer Ruiz still keep in touch with each other today.