Heroic deputy honored

Stacia Hylton, director of the U.S. Marshals Service (right), presents the Purple Heart Award of the U.S. Marshals Service to Charleston County Sheriff’s Deputy Alan Ali (second from right) on Thursday as Ali’s wife, Iantha and Sheriff Al Cannon watch.

Charleston County sheriff's Deputy Alan Ali's specialty is chasing down bad guys.

Since 2007, Ali has been assigned full time to Operation Intercept, a fugitive task force led by the U.S. Marshals Service.

In 2009, he was shot while trying to apprehend a suspected bank robber.

On Thursday, in an ornately appointed courtroom in the federal courthouse in Charleston, in front of friends, colleagues and family members, Ali was honored with the Purple Heart Award of the U.S. Marshals Service.

Stacia Hylton, director of the U.S. Marshals Service, presented the award, along with Kelvin Washington, the U.S. Marshal for South Carolina and Ali's boss, Sheriff Al Cannon.

Hylton thanked Ali for his service and said nothing was more difficult for a law enforcement commander than to get a call about a shooting. "Despite this danger, men and women throughout our country put themselves in harm's way daily," she said.

The Marshals Service has already lost nine people to line-of-duty deaths so far this year, Hylton said.

Washington told of the circumstances surrounding the shooting.

Ali and other task force members had tracked a suspected bank robber, Terrell Mallard, to a residence in North Charleston in February 2009. Mallard, who was hiding in a bathroom, began firing at officers, with one of the shots striking Ali in the ankle. North Charleston police officers returned fire, striking Mallard several times. Both Ali and Mallard were treated for their injuries. Mallard later pleaded guilty to attempting to kill a federal officer, two counts of attempting to kill a person assisting a federal officer and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence. He was sentenced to 30 years in federal prison.

Ali is one of the longest-serving members of the fugitive task force, Washington said. "He continues to be a very valuable asset to the task force."

Cannon said Ali is very good at finding fugitives.

"He is where he is for as long as he's been there because he's very good at what he does," the sheriff said.

As he made his way to the podium to speak, Ali was smiling broadly, but he seemed almost embarrassed to be there.

"I give glory and thanks to God almighty for my being here," Ali said. "I also thank God for blessing me with a loving wife."

His wife, Iantha, was among those in attendance. Ali rattled off a long list of colleagues and friends he wanted to thank.

He said he has taken a lot of good-natured ribbing for getting honors and accolades after having been shot in the foot.

"But my doctor told me if I had been shot in the Achilles tendon, my career would be over," he said.

Running is part of his job description and he likes participating in the Cooper River Bridge Run and walking around Walmart after his kids. He was worried he might not ever be able to do those things again.

But he was determined, he said. He wanted to get back on the job, doing what he loves to do.

"I'm working with the best crew, the U.S. Marshals Service and the Charleston County Sheriff's Office. I couldn't wait to get back."

Though he'd been told recovery might take six months, he was back on duty in May 2009, a little more than two months after the shooting.