By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Three Etowah County Sheriff’s deputies were awarded the 2018 Alabama Legislative Medal of Honor for Law Enforcement on Thursday.
Deputies Hayden Clements, Tyler Cline, and Andy Reed received the honor for their heroism in going into a burning jail to in Etowah County’s maximum security section to rescue the inmates there.
The Sheriff of Etowah County is Todd Entrekin.
The Alabama Legislature awarded a medal of honor on Thursday to three sheriff’s deputies who faced a fire set by inmates in a north Alabama county jail.
The medal of honor is the highest award given annually to law enforcement officers in the state.
Deputies Andy Reed, Hayden Clements and Tyler Cline responded to a fire set by immigrant detainees in the maximum security unit of the Etowah County Detention Center in May 2017.
The six-story Etowah County jail also doubles as an ICE detention center where criminal illegal aliens are housed by federal authorities awaiting deportation.
Five foreign nationals plotted an escape attempt on May 26, 2017. Twenty-two-year-old Nigerian Okiemute Omatie was charged with arson and destruction of state property for starting the fire inside the Etowah County jail.
Even though this was the maximum-security section and inmates housed there were considered dangerous, the three deputies went in there anyway and evacuated the 22 men from the smoke-filled room to safety. They and the Gadsden Fire Department extinguished the fire. None of the inmates escaped or died in the incident.
“As bad as this incident was, it could have been a lot worse,” Entrekin said. “I am thankful for the quick response from the Gadsden Fire Department and the deputies inside the detention center. Their professional and noble actions saved lives.”
The deputies and the other medal of honor nominees were honored in a joint session of the Alabama House of Representatives and Senate.
“Today you honor what is best about the state of Alabama,” said Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall said. “Those that were honored today will tell you that they were just doing their job.”
State Sen. Phil Williams, R-Gadsden, said that the media often does not report the good news that happens.
“I personally believe that you are ordained by God to wear the star,” Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon, R-Monrovia, said to all of the Medal of Honor nominees. “Thank you for making our lives better by the sacrifices that each of you make.”
The legislature is passing a Joint Resolution sponsored by State Rep. Howard Sanderford, R-Huntsville, to honor Reed, Clements, and Kline.
The legislature also honored the other medal nominees and Mobile police officer Justin Billa, who was shot while on duty on February 20.
(Original reporting by ABC33/40 and the Alabama Media Group contributed to this report.)