She used to hate the Orange PD, and now she feels the opposite

By Greg Hardesty

The banging at the front door was incessant.

The young woman inside the home, high on meth, heard the officers from the Orange PD announce themselves.

She dumped her dope and pipe in the toilet and flushed them away.

But during a search of the bathroom at her mother’s house, the young woman cringed when an officer found an ounce of meth — enough for her to sell for $1,200, or for herself to get high for three to four days — in what she thought was a great hiding place:

A box of tampons.

And yet, even at a low point that for many addicts would qualify as rock bottom, the woman remained defiant and delusional.

“When are you going to get your (stuff) together, Niveen?” an OPD officer asked her.

“When you guys stop (messing) with me,” she said.

Niveen Khalaf Trujillo, sober since Aug. 7, 2012, is recounting this and other horror stories from what she calls her “hot mess” years, between the ages of 15 and 22, from a couch in the living room of her home in Orange.

Daughter Audriyana, 7, just got back from gymnastics class and is drawing in her bedroom.

Niveen’s husband of two years, Anthony Trujillo, is compassionately listening to stories he’s heard over and over about his wife’s sordid and criminal past — a past she squarely blames on one thing:

Drug addiction.

Niveen Trujillo, 27, used to hate the Orange PD.

Now she loves them for helping to get her clean.

In a Feb. 6 comment she posted on the Orange PD’s new Facebook page, which went live Jan. 23, 2018, Trujillo wrote, in part:

Orange PD loved to come and surprise me for probation drug offender checks all the time. I hated you guys for so long, but the reality was that I hated myself.

I am truly grateful for all the times you guys arrested me and all the times I would get pulled over and talked to by your officers.

SABOTAGE

When she was doing drugs — meth, mostly, although she’s shot up a lot of heroin, including into the veins in her neck — Trujillo believed the OPD was trying to sabotage her life.

“I didn’t realize it was my addiction that was sabotaging my life,” Trujillo says.

Born Niveen Khalaf, to a Palestinian father and a Hispanic mother, addiction seized Trujillo soon after she first smoked pot at age 13 in Whittier, where she grew up.

By 14, she was doing meth.

“I remember the first time I did it,” she says. “It was life-changing. I felt like I was on top of the world.”

In reality, she was heading into an abyss.

The first of her dozen-plus arrests came when she was 15, for grand theft auto.

Trujillo’s father, who owned a courier business, had a problem with cocaine, she says. He wasn’t around a lot after he and her mother separated when Niveen was 2.

Trujillo’s mother also wasn’t around much. She worked a full-time graveyard shift as a probation officer for the County of Los Angeles, and also worked a day job at a cleaning business to raise Trujillo and her two siblings.

Niveen and Anthony Trujillo.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Trouble stalked her, and Trujillo became helpless to escape it.

She stole cars to get around — usually to visit motels to hook up with older men for sex and to score drugs.

“I was a whore,” Trujillo says unflinchingly. “I was the type of person who would shake hands with someone’s wife while I was sleeping with her husband.”

She fell into an abusive relationship with a fellow addict that lasted several years.

One day, she caught him cheating on her.

He ran out of the house and Trujillo chased him. She hopped into a Toyota Corolla and struck him with the car, sending him to the hospital and into weeks of physical therapy.

Despite that, the two got back together.

Drugs.

They make people crazy — and worse, Trujillo says.

Trujillo remained clean during her pregnancy, but shortly after the birth of her daughter, she started using again.

It would take her daughter being taken away from her for her to finally stop using.

Booking photos of Niveen Trujillo.

NEW LIFE

Audriyana was 2 when a probation officer placed her in the custody of Orange County Child Protective Services. Trujillo’s mother, who had a DUI arrest, and her father were deemed unfit by a judge to take custody of her.

The P.O. believed that losing her daughter was the only way for Trujillo, who at the time had four warrants out for her arrest, to get clean.

The P.O. turned out to be right.

Trujillo turned herself into authorities late on the afternoon of Aug. 6, 2012, and has been sober ever since.

Her daughter was in foster care for 48 days. Trujillo first saw her on day 29 during a 90-day stint in a recovery home. Later, Trujillo and her daughter spent 18 months in a residential program for mothers and children.

Now, Trujillo and her husband, 32, who briefly dated in high school, both work at treatment centers. Niveen is outpatient coordinator at Hotel California by the Sea in Huntington Beach. Anthony is house manager at Simple Recovery in Huntington Beach.

They eloped in Las Vegas on Jan. 1, 2016, but remarried on Jan. 17, 2018, at their church, Freedom Christian Center in Santa Fe Springs. A bonfire reception in Huntington Beach followed.

“I was that person who didn’t care about herself in any way, shape or form,” Trujillo says, saying it’s important to share her story to help herself in her recovery as well as other recovering addicts.

And for other reasons.

Niveen and Anthony Trujillo recently got remarried in a church. Photo courtesy of the Trujillos

“I want my daughter to know who I was and what I have become so she grows up making the right choices,” she says.

Trujillo also wants everyone to know the police aren’t the enemy.

“They’re here for us,” Trujillo says, “and I want my daughter to know when she grows up and calls the police for any reason, or sees them on the street, that they’re here to protect us.”

Trujillo ended her Facebook comment to the OPD with this:

We are blessed to live in a nice neighborhood and (my daughter) will never experience the life I used to live…Thank you for all your services and thank you for helping me change my life.”

McMullin says Trujillo’s posting reminded him and fellow officers about the difference officers can make in people’s lives.

“This is why a lot of us became cops — to help people,” McMullin says. “Sometimes we lose sight of that.”

Photo courtesy of the Trujillos