Road to redemption: Former addict makes amends with flower stand owner he robbed

- A man who served time in prison amid a life of crime and drug addiction says he’s on the road to redemption with the help of others.

He says a gas station along busy Bailey Road in Bay Point is where he robbed a flower stand owner at gunpoint three years ago.  He says he was looking to feed his meth habit at the time.

"This place has different meanings to me.  It has turmoil, anger, shame, guilt, but it has peace and happiness." says Joe Duke.

The 27-year-old says he has conflicting emotions about the gas station.   

Last month, he was low on gas as he was driving on Highway 4.  He pulled up to the same gas station and saw the man he robbed.
  
"I look and there he is and immediately I know it's him.  I'm like man...this is the guy," says Duke.
  
The guy is Mike, the flower stand owner, who sets up shop at the gas station from time to time. 

Duke approached him.  

"It was a little scary reaching out to him because I might get in trouble for it. I'm on parole and I'm not supposed to have contact with the victims, But it's something I'm willing to risk.
  
Worth the risk because Duke says he had robbed Mike of about $100.
 
And now, he wanted to make amends. He wanted to give Mike the money he had.

The flower stand owner declined to speak on camera, but shared his cell phone video of Duke talking to him during that chance encounter. 
 
On the video, Duke says: "I can't even ask for forgiveness, but what I can do as a man is come to you and let you know I am sorry.  I want you to know that I'm here to make this right with you."
 
Then Mike looks into the cell phone camera and says, "If I can get this picture.  My brother....man, I forgive you."

Duke thanked Mike.

"Absolutely.  You're awesome.  It takes a lot of character to do that," says Mike.

Duke's girlfriend Kimberly Soto witnessed the meeting and starting snapping photos to preserve the moment.

"It was indescribable being there and witnessing it.  It was humbling," says Soto. 

The flower stand owner gave Soto roses.  He gave Duke something priceless: forgiveness.

"There are no words to even explain.  It's not something you can put into words that you gain from making amends like that. It's so powerful within you," says Duke. 

After serving time at San Quentin, the 27-year-old says he's been clean and sober for 18 months.
   
"I was definitely given a second chance at a first class life and I'm trying to take it.  I'm trying to grasp onto it," says Duke,

"Every night, when I come home from a hard day at work, a honest hard day at work, I can go to sleep knowing that I'm a productive member of society today.  I may not have been then, but today I am," says Duke.

He works full- time loading trucks for a drilling company. 

He lost his mother last November and tells KTVU she was an inspiration helping him stay sober.

Duke is grateful for the second chance.
 
Now, he says it's time to give back and let others struggling with addiction know they too can find the road to recovery and redemption.
 

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