Teen says officer saved her from sex trafficking

By Josephine Woolington

The Register-Guard

Published: Sunday, July 6 2014 5:40 p.m. MDT

Bailey Gates and Eugene police officer Nicholas Reich reconnect June 26, 2014, in Eugene, Ore., after not having seen one another for a year. Their lives intersected when she ran away from home last summer, agreeing to meet a man in New York City whom she had met online. Gates credits Reich for saving her from what might have been a sex trafficking net.

The Register-Guard, Paul Carter, Associated Press

EUGENE, Ore. — Bailey Gates boarded a plane from Eugene to Portland — her first time flying — on July 27, 2013.

She took another flight from Portland to Los Angeles, and one more from L.A. to New York City that day.

The then-17-year-old remembers the trip clearly.

She was headed for New York to meet a man who she had met online. She left Eugene early in the morning without telling her family.

Her mother reported her missing hours after she left for the airport.

At the request of Eugene police officer Nicholas Reich, who was assigned to Bailey's case that day, a New York Police Department detective and several FBI agents escorted Bailey off the plane when it landed in New York City.

New York police detectives later told Bailey that had she met up with the man, she likely would have been forced into sex trafficking. "Here's your second chance," Bailey recalled the detective telling her while handing her a plane ticket back to Oregon. "Don't blow it."

Since then, Bailey has become a devout Christian, graduated from high school and nurtured her hopes for a career in music. She wants to share her story, she says, to help other teens avoid becoming a part of the sex trade.

She and her family have also learned to not be ashamed to talk about her experience.

Six months after returning to Eugene, Bailey wrote to Reich, thanking him for, in her words, saving her life. She told him that her parents bought her a guitar for Christmas and that she'd written several songs.

"I'd love to hear back from you," Bailey wrote.

After reading her letter, Reich gave Bailey the acoustic guitar he owned for about a decade.

More recently, the Eugene Police Department commended Reich for his efforts to bring Bailey home.

"For me, I never get to see the results when we have investigations," Reich said. "You don't get to hear the end story. To see she's back home, her life is changing and she has a passion to share her story with other people, is incredible."

The two hope to stay in contact. Reich suggested that Bailey join him on a police ride-along soon. Bailey offered to cook tamales for him.

"She adores him," Bailey's mother, Kim Gates, said.

During her junior year at Sheldon High School, things started going downhill for Bailey.

She says she began hanging out with the wrong people, smoking marijuana and drinking — behavior she thought was normal for a teenaged girl.

"Everybody was doing that," Bailey said.

She and her friends one night were bored and decided to mess around online. They visited online chat rooms, and Bailey started talking to a guy who said his name was Brett.

Brett told Bailey he was a 20-year-old student at New York University, lived in a fancy apartment and had rich parents.

Bailey said she and Brett talked for hours every day for a couple of months. He would send her photos of himself but said he could not do any kind of live video chatting because he didn't have a camera on his computer.

"We became a couple," Bailey said she believed at the time.

Brett soon starting pressuring Bailey to come live with him after she told him about problems she was having at home. He promised to pay for her college tuition if she moved to New York.

He persuaded her to use her parents' credit card to buy a plane ticket and to buy a specific cellphone, which did not have tracking capabilities.

She agreed to meet him on July 27.

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