It’s June 2017 and six prisoners are on a work detail mowing the grass at a cemetery in Polk County, Georgia. They’re guarded by just one deputy from the county’s Sheriff’s Office, on a hot summer’s day with humidity at 100 percent. The guarding officer looks unwell and indeed is struggling for breath before he passes out. As a result, the six inmates crowd around the helpless officer.
The officer lay face down on the grass, and his gun was unprotected. To make matters worse, his van was parked nearby – providing a ready escape vehicle. One of the prisoners leant over the prone man and started going through his pockets. Finding what he wanted, the convict stood up holding the object in his hand. Remarkably, he then used the cellphone he’d just pulled from the stricken guard’s pocket to dial 911.
Some of the other prisoners then loosened the deputy’s bulletproof vest and took off his gun belt to make him more comfortable. As Polk County Sheriff Johnny Moats told Time magazine in June 2017, “They could have taken the gun, got the work van and gone. They could have done anything they wanted… If they would have left him there, it could have been hours before anyone came across him.”
The deputy, who asked not to be named, described what had happened to TV station WKYC that month. He said, “I started coughing spells, and every time I got those, I’d get hotter. It was just harder to keep up… I just finally went down after a couple of minutes doing that.” One of the prisoners, Greg Williams, told Time, “It wasn’t about who is in jail and who wasn’t. It was about a man going down, and we had to help him.”
And the good news is that the deputy made a rapid recovery and his family rewarded the prisoners with a free lunch. Furthermore, the even better news for the convicts is that Sheriff Moats announced that the prisoners concerned would see their sentences slashed by around a quarter. So being the good guys that day certainly paid off for them.