A shining, heroic light for troubled youth | TheUnion.com

A shining, heroic light for troubled youth

For the second time in his career, state peace officer and Nevada County resident James Crain has been awarded a medal of valor for saving someone’s life.

Crain, a counselor with a degree in criminal justice, works with the state’s “worst of the worst” young offenders, age 18 to 25, at Stockton’s N.A. Chaderjian Youth Correctional Facility.

“I chose to work with kids in trouble,” Crain said.

While working one night, Crain noticed one of the inmate’s rooms was engulfed in flames.

“We got the fire out, but the kid wasn’t coming out. So I said, ‘The hell with it, I’m going in’,” Crain said.

He jumped over a pile of blankets in the doorway, used to ignite the fire, and entered the room.

On the way, he singed his pant legs and shoes.

“I didn’t think smoke. The first thing I was thinking was, ‘This boy is waiting with a shank, and he is going to stab me.’ Then I thought, ‘This boy is going to die in here,'” Crain said.

He found the inmate crouched on a desk with a cloth over his face.

“I knew we had to get out. I had already lost my breath. We both had smoke inhalation. I just grabbed him,” Crain said. Stoutly built and 5-feet-5-inches tall, it took some muscling to get the inmate out the door.

He was recognized for his heroism during a ceremony at the California state capitol.

It’s not the first time Crain has saved a life. Three years ago while working at Washington Ridge Camp, he rescued a man who nearly bled to death after he punched his arm through a window during an escape attempt.

“This is my job and duty to protect these fellows,” Crain said.

To contact Staff Writer Laura Brown, e-mail lbrown@theunion.com or call 477-4231.

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