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ODOC veteran officer owes his life to an inmate

Thursday, February 21, 2019

MCALESTER, Okla -- A lot of memories can be packed into a 40 year career. But April 11th, 1978 is the one day JW Martin won’t ever forget.

Martin was training attack dogs at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary when the unthinkable happened. Martin said, “I grabbed one of those dogs and slipped and fell. The first thing he tore the muscles out in my arm. When I went to push him out he tore my nose out. Then he came back and got me in the throat. I put one hand over my nose and my throat was bleeding so bad it covered the windshield.”

Martin used his radio to call for assistance. Nobody available, the correctional officer beckoned help from the only person nearby … inmate, John Charles Wood. According to Martin, “I had a convict who was your hero. He saved my life, because the dog would have killed me if he hadn’t got him off.”

Wood was serving time for armed robbery and drug possession. Martin recalled, “When I couldn’t find anyone to take me, I told the inmate to run through the gate. He said what if they go to shootin’? I said by the time we get gone he couldn’t hit us anyway. So, we ran through the gate.”

Wood carried the correctional officer into the hospital emergency room and stayed right by his side. It took one-thousand stitches to put JW Martin back together. Martin said, “He saved my life

And Mr. Martin changed his. The OSP officer helped get his unlikely hero transferred to another facility where he could learn a trade and flourish after release.

John Wood earned the Carnegie Hero Award, given to “those who risk their lives in an extraordinary degree savings the lives of others.” Martin said, “When he got out he come back to the house. The Carnegie Foundation gave him a $1,000 reward for saving my life. And he wanted to give me the thousand dollars.”

Martin refused the generous offer but will forever be indebted to former inmate, John Wood. He said, “I’d thank him every way in the world. I would not be here if it hadn’t been for him.”

We'd like to locate former inmate, John Charles Wood. If you have any information on his whereabouts, please contact ODOC Communications Department. 

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