Etowah County District Attorney Jody Willoughby said he paused for a moment when he saw a man scale the fence in the temporary kitchen behind the jail, and move through the parking area behind the judicial building.

After all, the man was in street clothes, not inmate apparel, and there have been a number of contract workers around the jail during renovation work.

“After I saw him take off running across the parking lot, I thought, ‘No, he’s not just going to his car,’” he said. “He was in a sprint.”

Willoughby didn’t pause long enough for the man — an ICE detainee right off the transport vehicle — to get away. He said he got in his vehicle and trailed the man behind Community Corrections and toward the old Department of Human Resources building.

He spotted the man tucked up at the doors to the former DHR and pulled up to ensure that he didn’t go further.

Willoughby said at that point, the man complied, coming to his vehicle and waiting for deputies.

It wasn’t much of a wait. A probation officer was outside the judicial building, too, and he arrived shortly after Willoughby, followed closely by deputies and a Gadsden police officer.

“Everybody was in motion,” he said. “It was just right place, right time.”

Willoughby spoke to Sheriff Jonathon Horton, and learned the man was being brought to the Etowah County Detention Center from another jurisdiction. He had not even made it into the jail to be processed when he made his escape attempt.

Willoughby said the fact that he got away momentarily was not the result of any issue with detention center procedures. He said he doesn’t know what the man was being detained for, and will be talking to the sheriff about whether the he will face charges related to the escape attempt.

“I was just trying to get home,” Willoughby said, and had paused to talk to Chief Deputy District Attorney Marcus Reid when all the excitement began.

With the would-be escapee safely in custody, the decision was made to iron out the next steps the next day.

“I have a huge amount of respect for law enforcement officers and what they do,” Willoughby said. After this brief experience with the kind of thing they encounter routinely, he said he’s not ready to trade professions.

“I’m good,” Willoughby said. “I enjoy prosecution.”

However, he said he was not going to stand by and watch someone jump the fence and escape — not when he was outside and in a position to intervene.