From upstairs, deputies could hear the commotion — and it didn’t sound good.
Inmates were shouting loudly and banging on the walls and doors of their basement holding cell at a district court building in Weatherford, Texas. The uproar was loud enough that deputies worried what they would find when they went to investigate, CNN reports. After all, there was only one guard in the basement on the morning of June 23, 2016, when the incident occurred — and that guard was armed.
“He had keys,” Parker County Sheriff’s Sgt. Ryan Speegle told WFAA of the man guarding the inmates. “Had a gun. It could have been an extremely bad situation.”
When deputies got downstairs, it didn’t looked good, either: A handful of inmates had burst out of their minimum security holding room, and were crowding over the jail guard in their orange or gray and white striped uniforms. The jail guard, meanwhile, had no pulse and was slumped in a chair, BuzzFeed reports.
But the scene wasn’t at all what it looked like at first glance — and for that, 52-year-old jail guard Gary Grimm owes his life.
The inmates had actually created the ruckus when they saw Grimm have a massive heart attack and lose consciousness as he sat just outside their cell. Once they got out of the cell, they tried jostling him to wake him up. One inmate even tried using Grimm’s radio to call for help, CNN reports. The entire scene was caught on surveillance cameras.
Paramedics quickly reached the basement holding cell and revived Grimm, as deputies took inmates back to the holding cell. Had it not been for inmates alerting others to his condition, Capt. Mark Arnett told BuzzFeed that Grimm could have easily died.
And now Grimm is thanking the inmates for what they did to save his life two years ago.
“If they wished harm for me, all they had to do was sit there and do nothing,” Grimm, who has since retired for medical reasons, told WFAA.
Once they got out of their cell, the inmates could have easily taken advantage of the situation, Grimm said.
But the inmates made another choice: “Instead of overtaking me and taking my gun, and killing me or taking a hostage and escaping, they looked at me as a human being,” Grimm told the station.
Inmates told WFAA in 2016 that they were worried about how the situation would look when officers arrived.
“We were worried they’re going to come with guns drawn on us,” inmate Nick Kelton told the TV station.
Another inmate told WFAA that, at first, officers assumed it was a fight.
“They thought we were taking over,” inmate Floyd Smith told the station.
After the incident, the inmates got a thank you from the officers, CNN reports, with officers acknowledging that their actions “absolutely” saved Grimm’s life. The door to the holding cell they had broken out of also got reinforced.
Grimm is now in need of a heart transplant, according to a GoFundMe page raising money for his medical expenses.
The page described Grimm as a “family man” who has opened his home to numerous foster children and worked in law enforcement for decades — a “true salt of the earth person.”
The page has raised just more than $8,000 towards its $75,000 goal.