BLADEN COUNTY, NC (WECT) - Three inmates were honored by the Bladen County Sheriff’s Office with a Live Saving Award after they helped their roadside supervisor who suffered a medical condition while on duty Wednesday afternoon.
The inmates — Roy William Smith, Rosendo Morales-Sanchez, and Franklin Edens Jr — were picking up trash alongside Peanut Road in Elizabethtown as part of a special program that allows inmates serving minor crimes to reduce jail time in exchange for their cleanup work, according to Chief Deputy Larry Guyton.
Suddenly, their supervisor, James Smith, started feeling sick and passed out.
“I looked back. (The officer) was kind of stumbling in the ditch, like he was losing his balance," said Edens. “And from there, he stumbled, fell over into the ditch.”
Edens rushed over to help Smith, but realized it was a medical emergency when the officer was having trouble answering questions.
Two other people driving by noticed that something wrong and stopped to help.
“He immediately said we should call EMS and get him some help," said Eden, who took Smith’s cell phone and called 911.
In the 911 calls, Eden can be heard asking for an ambulance to assist the officer. The inmates stayed by his side until paramedics and law enforcement arrived.
“If that was my father laying beside the road, I would want somebody to help him instead of running off," said Roy Smith.
James Smith was taken to Cape Fear Valley Medical Center in Fayetteville and eventually moved to Duke University Hospital in Durham where doctors diagnosed him with a stroke in the intensive care unit.
Smith is resting and recovering, according to a family member.
“We would also like to thank the three inmates for standing by with Mr. Smith when there were so many other options they could have taken,” the sheriff’s office posted on Facebook.
The Bladen County Sheriff’s Office honored the three men during a Thursday afternoon ceremony.
“At the end of the day, knowing he is OK, that makes you feel better," said Edens.
The inmates said Smith had always treated them well, and they had developed a warm relationship.
“He’s a good man. He’s more than a police officer," Roy Smith said. "He’s more or less like my friend. He’s just a really good guy all the way around.”
Sheriff Jim McVicker shook each of the inmates' hands and presented them with the award.
“It goes to show, if you treat people right, they’ll return the favor and treat you right, and that’s exactly what they’ve done here,” McVicker said during the ceremony.
Only four Life Saving Awards have been given out by McVicker in the four years he has served as Bladen County Sheriff.
McVicker said the award will be placed in their file, which might help them gain employment after their release.
Two deputies and the sheriff’s office chaplain were expected to travel to Durham on Thursday to visit Smith. The sheriff’s office is asking the community to keep Smith in their prayers for a speedy recovery.
“We look forward to having you back soon!!” the sheriff’s office posted.