CANTON, N.Y. (WCAX) For the first time we're hearing publicly from the New York State Police Sgt. who's credited with helping end the infamous 2015 prison escape from Dannemora.
Sgt. Jay Cook
"I don't know how it has changed me or if it has changed me, but it's certainly something you can't prepare for. It's something you don't think about while you're doing your day-to-day job," said New York State Police Sgt. Jay Cook, the man credited for finding and taking down David Sweat in a field near the Canadian border.
Sgt. Cook told students at a SUNY Canton Law Enforcement Day presentation Wednesday that he still grapples with what happened that day even two years later. A standoff that ended a three-week manhunt that terrorized the North Country.
Convicted murderers Richard Matt and David Sweat orchestrated a Hollywood-style escape from the prison in Dannemora. The North Country went into lockdown during the manhunt with roadblocks, car searches, and police swarming usually-quiet towns.
Three weeks later, Richard Matt was shot and killed by police. But the search didn't end for another two days, until David Sweat was shot and wounded just miles from the Canadian border.
Major Charles Guess, the former commander of Troop B, says Sgt. Cook was prepared when he realized who he was facing. "He challenges Sweat and Sweat just kind of gives him the, you know, 'I'm good bro,' and continues walking as if he's meant to be there. It was a pretty good act and he may have fooled some people," Guess said. "In that moment -- essentially Sgt. Cook being a great investigator because he paid attention for 23 years -- knew he was looking at no less than David Sweat."
The final shot from Sgt. Cook allowed the North Country to breathe a sigh of relief, but it put this officer -- and his family -- in the spotlight. "Not like what happened to me and my family after that day," Cook said. "For instance, they had to have a troop car at the end of my road for a full week after this happened to stop the media from coming to my house."
Sgt. Cook told students it's something that still affects him to this day. "I just didn't know how to handle it for quite a long time and I still struggle with handling some of it even though it's way in the past now," he said.
Guess also credits Sgt. Cook for saving Sweat's life, by running in for medical attention after the shot and stabilzing him until the paramedics showed up.