Pierre Johnson convict and Carnegie award winnerIn saving a life, Pierre Johnson may also have transformed his own.

Locked up in a Minnesota prison over the past year for selling cocaine, Johnson was stunned to learn this week that he is among 22 Americans receiving the Carnegie Hero award for risking his life to save a 91-year-old neighbor woman from a burning house in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota.

“The board that signed off on the prestigious award, which comes with a $5,000 prize and an educational scholarship, knew Johnson was a felon when their investigator started researching his story in June 2012, the same month he pleaded guilty to the drug charge,” according to a story yesterday in the Minn. Star-Tribune.

The Carnegie Hero website reports that on May 17, 2012, Audrey Stewart, 91, was in a wheelchair in a second-floor bedroom at one end of her family’s home when a fire broke out in an attached garage at the other end. Winds drove the flames into the residence, blocking entry through the front door.

Mr. Johnson, 33, who lived nearby, responded to the scene, where he learned that Stewart was still inside the house and on the second floor. He went to a living room window at the front of the structure, punched through its screen and glass, and, hoisting himself up to the sill, climbed inside. He crossed the smoke-filled living room to the stairway and ascended to the second floor. After looking for Stewart in several rooms, he found her, picked her up and carried her down the stairs, eventually handing her through the window to others outside.

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