DECATUR — A bloody struggle in a Macon County jail shower stall to save an inmate from bleeding out and killing himself has earned four correctional officers recognition for their heroic efforts.
Officers Joshua Chestnut, 46; Clinton Smith, 28; Terry Collins, 47; and Jacob Warrick, 26, were all awarded the Macon County Sheriff’s Office Life Saving Award. The award was presented Thursday evening, before the start of the Macon County Board meeting, by Lt. Jamie Belcher, jail administrator.
Speaking to the Herald & Review before the presentation, Belcher said the officers’ efforts had gone far beyond the normal call of duty in saving the 37-year-old inmate, who had slashed his own wrist and was determined to die.
“He was coming in and out of consciousness and he would come to and start fighting with the officers, kicking them, and pulling away from them,” said Belcher.
“One of the officers had put a tourniquet on him to immediately stop the bleeding and he (the prisoner) pulled away and started pulling off the tourniquet. It took all four officers to control him as well as perform first aid on him.”
The drama started around 7:30 a.m. on May 25 as Chestnut, 46, was passing out meals in the jail’s segregation unit, used for inmates who commit rules infractions. Belcher said Chestnut saw the inmate lying on the floor in the shower and then noticed he was surrounded with a large amount of blood.
Chestnut stepped in to get the man out and his fellow officers came running when he called for back-up. Then the struggle to staunch the wound — inflicted with a safety razor — began as the inmate and officers struggled together in the wet and bloody shower stall.
“Basically, the officers did perfect, controlling him and performing first aid and getting the bleeding stopped,” said Belcher. “All officers are trained in basic first aid but these guys went a little bit more than their basic first aid.”
The inmate was later rushed to hospital where emergency surgery was needed to repair the razor wound.
"Really, I'm just doing what they they hired me to do: safety and security for the incarcerated," Clinton said of the incident. "And at that point, it was a safety issue, so we went in, and we did what we thought we needed to do to protect that individual."
The award proclamation to the officers says in part that: “... The medical professionals on scene and those who treated the detainee upon arrival at the hospital indicated had it not been for the aforementioned officers’ actions, the detainee would have been successful at his attempt to end his life.”
Belcher said the prisoner, who is being held in relation to a federal case, is now back in the jail and under a close suicide watch.
Collins, speaking with the Herald & Review afterward, said that attempts like the one he helped stop happen from time to time.
"Unfortunately, it happens a lot," Collins said. "... We just stay focused and be diligent and just rely on our training and just keep working together."
23 photos from inside the Macon County Jail through the years
200 block East Wood Street
Sheriff showing available space
Check in area
Early cooks preparing meal
Team of jail cooks
Demolition of jail and sheriff residence
Macon County sheriff Thrift
Contact Tony Reid at (217) 421-7977. Follow him on Twitter: @TonyJReid