Special Report: A Journey to Redemption

Andre Pulido
Andre Pulido

By Jim Mendoza - bio | email

WAIKIKI (HawaiiNewsNow) - As Andre Pulido steps across the parking lot of the old Hard Rock Cafe, he recalls the crossroads he encountered a year ago on the Waikiki property.
"What happened on January 5 was probably the best thing that happened to me in my life," he said.
To understand that statement, you have to know that in high school Andre excelled in ROTC, and in hiding his drug use.  It got out of hand in the Air Force, where he was court martialed over crystal meth."
 "I had opportunities to go to the Air Force Academy, which got blown out the door," he said.
Good jobs, a devoted girlfriend and a child - nothing could melt his "Ice" addiction.  It lasted 18 years.
"It just seemed to follow me everywhere I went," he said.

Then came last January.  Andre was alone and homeless when he tried to steal copper wire for meth money.
"When I was there in the vault trying to cut the copper, what happened was I just got glued to the electricity, and I couldn't let go," he said.
He said he could feel the current from the live wire moving through his body and burning his skin. 
"I just called out to God.  I said, 'Lord, please don't let me go like this.  Father, please, Lord.  Don't let me go like this.' Then all of a sudden there was a big explosion.  Boom!" he said.
The blast freed Andre from the electrical current.  But not its consequences.
"I don't know if I was on fire.  I don't know what was happening," he said.  "But when I ran away I looked at my hands and my fingertips were all black."
Severe burns covered forty percent of his body.  Doctors said the electrocution and explosion should have blown off an arm or leg.  It disfigured the right side of his face.
"They did some skin graphs on my eyelid," he said.  "They skin graphed this side of my head because it was badly burned behind the ear, inside of the ear, and down the sideburn over here.  And also my whole right hand."
It's been a year and Andre still wears pressure sleeves to protect his skin from tears and blisters.
"When I'm watching TV at home, I can't change the remote with one hand.  I have to use two hands just to push the buttons," he said.
Andre took us back to the site of the transformer incident.  He believes it saved him because it dried his thirst for drugs.
"Instead of living a life in shame when you have to hide because of the drugs, and trying to pretend that you're not on them, I don't have to hide no more.  I can be myself now," he said.
At Moanalua Gardens Missionary Church, Andre has found Christianity and a calling.  He tells youth groups what meth addiction did to him.  And he's after a bigger audience.
"I feel by sharing my story, at least maybe I can help one person.  It would be worth it," he said.  "This is not about me but about how God had saved my life."    
The crossroads Andre encountered at the Hard Rock site started him in a new direction.  He now plans to go to college to study social work.
"I don't regret anything because I believe this accident made me a stronger individual," he said.
In September Honolulu police arrested Andre for the copper case.  HPD is still investigating.  He could be charged with criminal property damage. He said whatever happens won't dampen his new outlook.
"I can't change the past.  And I wouldn't change the past for anything.  But what I can do is change what I am going to do in the future," he said.
For the last year, Andre Pulido has been drug free.  He and his wife had their second child. The copper crime that nearly killed him changed his body and soul, and the about face is startling. 
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