In the end, it was a one-on-one battle between New York State Police Sergeant Jay Cook, 47, and escaped convict David Sweat, 35, in an upstate New York cornfield two miles south of the Canadian border.
Sweat fought the law and the law won.
Cook, a 21-year law enforcement veteran, was on patrol by himself Sunday about 3 pm eastern about 5 miles north of the 22-square mile search area where as many as 1,000 fellow officers were looking for Sweat, when he spotted a man dressed in camouflage clothing jogging on Coveytown Road in the Town of Constable, just 2 miles north of the Village of Malone, New York.
Cook called to the man to stop. Instead of stopping, the man looked back, turned north and plunged into farmer Tom McDonald’s cornfield, running straight towards a tree line a mile and a half from the border.
As the man turned to look at him briefly, Cook recognized the face. It was David Sweat, the still-at-large convict whose fellow escapee Richard Matt, 49, had been shot and killed 12 miles to the south just two days earlier.
Cook, who is also a firearms instructor for the troop to which he is assigned of the New York State Police (Troop B which covers Franklin, Clinton, St. Lawrence, and Essex Counties), grabbed his service weapon and took off after Sweat.
According to a 2006 press release, the Glock pistol, Model 37, .45 caliber, is the service weapon provided by the New York State Police to its 5,400 officers.
Cook soon realized he would not catch the escaped convict on foot before he reached the tree line.
He raised his service weapon, aimed at Sweat and fired twice.
Both shots hit Sweat in the torso, and he fell to the ground in the cornfield, just yards shy of the trees.
Cook apprehended Sweat, then called for backup. Within minutes dozens of New York State troopers and the Town of Constable Emergency Medical Services team surrounded Sweat.
Sweat was placed under arrest, the EMS team treated his wounds, gave him an IV, placed him on a stretcher, put him in an ambulance, and took him to the nearby Alice Hyde Medical Center in Malone, New York with a heavy State Police escort.
Sweat’s capture brings to an end the 23-day manhunt that began when he and Matt escaped from the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, New York on the evening of June 5/morning of June 6 by cutting holes in the walls of their adjoining cells, jumping on to a catwalk, climbing down six stories, breaking through a brick wall, cutting a hole into a 2 foot wide steam pipe, crawling through that steam pipe over 400 yards, cutting through padlocks on a manhole cover, and emerging from a manhole at the corner of Barker Street and Bouck Street in Dannemora, one block south of the 30 foot high prison wall.
Ironically, the Alice Hyde Medical Center is the same hospital where Joyce Mitchell, the 51-year-old civilian employee at the Clinton Correctional Facility, sought treatment for a panic attack on the evening of June 5/morning of June 6 when Matt and Sweat made their spectacular escape.
After being treated briefly at Alice Hyde, Sweat was sent to a hospital in Potsdam, New York where he received further treatment, and then sent on to Albany Medical Center, where he is currently listed in critical condition.
At a press conference held in the Titus Ski Resort just south of Malone late Sunday night, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo praised Cook for his capture of Sweat, as well as the entire 1,000 man law enforcement search team.
As CNN reported:
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said [he] called the sergeant to congratulate him on his “great police work” Sunday. Speaking to reporters Sunday evening, the governor described the conversation.
“I said to Sgt. Cook, who has two daughters, 16 and 17, I said, ‘Well, you go home tonight and tell your daughters that you’re a hero,’ ” Cuomo said. “With teenage girls, that’ll probably last a good 24 hours, and then you’ll just go back to being a regular dad.”
In Dannemora, site of the Clinton Correctional Facility, and across the north country of Clinton and Franklin Counties, spontaneous celebrations broke out at the news of Sweat’s capture and the end of the 23 day manhunt for the escaped convicts.
Cook still lives in the small town of Burke, New York, where he grew up, as do his parents. Burke is just 3 miles east of Constable, where Cook shot and captured Sweat today.
His mother, Judy Cook, told the Plattsburgh Press-Republican late Sunday she was proud of her son:
“Oh, we’re so relieved that it’s over and nobody got hurt,” Judy [Cook] said. “That was the main worry of everybody in this area.”
They haven’t quite got used to the idea that their son was the one to stop Sweat.
“It’s just so surreal that this has happened,” Judy said.
“But we are extremely proud of him.”
Cook received praise from public officials and private citizens as well. As the Press-Republican reported:
Today was routine patrol by the sergeant and some good head’s-up police work,” State Police Superintendent Joseph D’Amico said at a press conference in Malone on Sunday night.
“He did a very courageous and brave act of policing,” he said, echoing similar praise from Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Retired U.S. Navy Intelligence Officer Brian McKee has had many conversations with former Franklin County District Attorney Derek Champagne about Sgt. Cook, who, he said, is a highly regarded professional.
“Derek has called him ‘one good cop,'” Mckee told the Press-Republican.
Cook has served as State Police Troop B firearms instructor in the past.
McKee himself said Cook, who chased Sweat and then shot him when it became apparent he would escape into the woods, “showed a hell of a lot of courage in handling this guy one on one. Based on my 48 years in the business, he took the proper action.”
On Fayette Road veteran U.S. Navy Special Operations Specialist Jason Langdon recognized Cook’s name and face immediately.
Sweat’s escape accomplice, Richard Matt, had been shot and killed not far from Langdon’s home on Friday, and his house was within the area locked down by police.
Sgt. Cook, Langdon said, “was nice enough to take the time out personally and drive 30 minutes round trip to escort my wife through the roadblocks after she had been locked out 36-plus hours.
“The status of hero could not be going to a better man.”
Cook’s single-handed capture of Sweat was executed perfectly. He took down the escaped convict with two well placed shots from his service weapon, but did not kill him. As a result, New York State Police and officials from the Department of Corrections and Community Service may be able to question Sweat about the details of his escape and learn if anyone besides Joyce Mitchell and Correction Officer Gene Palmer, both of whom have been arrested, provided assistance.
In addition, if Sweat survives his current critical condition, he can provide invaluable information as to the tactics he and Matt used to evade capture for so long. One thing law enforcement has already learned is that the two escaped convicts may have used pepper to keep search dogs off their scent. Pepper with Sweat’s DNA was reportedly found near the site where Matt was shot and killed on Friday.
With law enforcement around the country being attacked and reviled by the mainstream media for just doing their jobs, Jay Cook is the kind of law enforcement hero the nation needed.
On Sunday Cook delivered, and the entire nation can celebrate his heroism.