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On June 6, convicted killers Richard Matt and David Sweat escaped from the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, New York. Twenty two days later — following an intense and well-publicized manhunt — a U.S. Customs and Border patrol tactical team shot and killed Matt near the town of Malone. On June 28, Sgt. Jay Cook shot and apprehended Sweat, with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo hailing the state trooper as a “hero.”
For the first time since his courageous act, Cook speaks out, sharing his story exclusively with TODAY as a part of our “2015 Voices,” a special series of essays and interviews with newsmakers behind some of our biggest moments of the year.
I would like to say thank you to everyone for all the praise I received after the capture of David Sweat. I received letters and cards from all over the nation and Canada in the months following that day.
This was the most stressful and tiring detail I have ever been involved in. Everyone involved worked tirelessly to capture these two inmates, and put their own safety at risk every day.
The local communities were the best. All the local fire departments opened their doors; volunteers brought food, drinks and supplies every day. Without this community support, it could have been unbearable.
On several occasions, many men and women were on fixed posts with no relief for more than 24 hours at a time. It is unbelievable to me that nobody in law enforcement or the community got injured during this three-week manhunt.
I don't know why I was the one to come across Sweat, but I am very thankful I was able to do my job. It happened very quickly and the decisions I had to make were very fast. I feel anyone in my position would have performed the same. It's our job and it is what we train to do.
Again, thank you to everyone involved and I am very happy it all came to a successful end with both inmates apprehended and nobody else getting hurt.
Cook also reflected on the ordeal’s impact on him as a police officer, and his hopes for 2016.
I don't feel this has changed me as a person. I feel that I would not have done anything differently and the decisions I made that day were the right ones.
I have no plans to retire yet; I enjoy my work. My two daughters have college plans and my wife and I want to support their endeavors the best we can. My friends and family have been very supportive and, to be honest, I rarely think about it unless someone brings it up.
I hope our nation can come together to fight our enemies and not fight ourselves. We face pure evil, and law enforcement everywhere needs help, not distraction.