OMAHA, Neb. — A former Omahan recently returned home for an emotional and unique reunion. He wanted to find and say thank you to the man who turned his life around a decade ago — a retired Omaha police officer.
The last time Mark Allen walked into Omaha's police headquarters, he was in handcuffs and headed for jail. This time he tracked down the man who placed him under arrest. It was an emotional meeting for Allen as the two embraced in the lobby.
"I've wanted to say thank you in person for so long — you have no idea," said Allen.
He wanted to find Officer Chuck Matson and tell him how things have changed since they last saw each other.
"You got one drunk driver off the road for good that night," said Allen. "You saved my life."
KETV NewsWatch 7 caught up with Allen earlier in the week as he celebrated nine years of sobriety. He went to college in Omaha and moved to Los Angeles, where he began a high-profile career producing reality shows like "Super Nanny."
Between the stresses of work and a fast-paced social scene, Allen said his drinking got out of control. Then he decided to take what would be a fateful trip.
"I was visiting Omaha and already had two DUIs," said Allen. "We went downtown and had a few drinks, then went to a pancake house."
On Mar. 23, 2003, at 2:30 a.m., Allen and a friend walked out of the restaurant and got into his vehicle. Allen chose to drive. What happened next would change his life forever.
He only made it a few blocks on Dodge Street before Matson pulled him over.
"I remember hating him," said Allen.
He was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving — his third offense. His return to Omaha ended in a court appearance where he was fined and sentenced to probation.
A few months later, clarity struck Allen and he realized that Matson had actually done him a favor.
"Before I got stopped that night I didn't know how to stop drinking," he said. "It was the first time in my life that I really started listening and thinking I might have a problem and doing what it took to get better."
Getting better would be a long road for Allen. Friends and the community helped him get sober and stay sober.
Along the way he made a promise to himself to find Matson. Finally, after nine years and a few phone calls, he had his reunion.
Matson recalled the arrest.
"I got you coming down the hill speeding," he said. "I wouldn't have stopped you if you had slowed down, but you kept on speeding."
Matson even showed Allen a copy of the arrest report he filed that March night. It was one of over 300 he had filed that year, but it was the only one that ended like this.
"It caught me by surprise," Matson said. "I've never had anyone try to contact me."
Now friends, the two are looking back at an improbable meeting in an improbable place.
"This probably is one of the biggest moments of my life," said Allen.
"This will be in my memory banks forever," Matson said.