A Nigerian man has been charged with arson in connection to a fire inside the Etowah County Detention Center, according to Sheriff Todd Entrekin.
“Okiemute Omatie, 22, of Lagos, Nigeria, is charged with one count of first degree arson and one count of destruction of state property, both are felonies,” said Lt. Robin Grant, Etowah County Arson Task Force member.
The fire was started, on Friday, May 26th, when Omatie manipulated an electrical outlet with a small wire to spark a fire. Security video inside the common area of Unit 3 clearly shows Omatie walking to a cell with a burning piece of paper. He then set a mattress and other combustible items on fire inside the cell. The sprinkler system inside the unit activated as smoke and flames filled the cell.
Omatie, along with four others Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainees, were outside of their cell on free time when the incident occurred.
Sheriff Entrekin said, “As bad as this incident was, it could have been a lot worse. 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.”
All inmates and detainees inside the detention center were accounted for and no other units were ever in danger or evacuated during the event.
Omatie has an extensive criminal history in the United States and was discovered by ICE while incarcerated in New Hampshire. He has been convicted of robbery, aggravated assault, simple assault (2x), trespassing, possession of marijuana and public order crimes. Omatie has verbally confirmed that he is a native and citizen of Nigeria and has no claim to U.S. citizenship.
Omatie is now in local custody where he is being held for the charges with a $50,000 cash bond.
Unit 3 is operational with the exception of the cell where the fire was lit.
Special thanks to the Etowah County Arson Task Force and Gadsden Fire Department for conducting the investigation.