Sgt. Jay Cook, a 22 year veteran New York State Trooper, was not on routine patrol on the afternoon of Sunday June 28, 2015. And for the most part, he was not alone in his search for two, and after the capture of Richard Matte, one escaped convicted murderer, David Sweat. Matte made good on his promise to not be taken alive and he was shot and fatally wounded when he refused to follow the commands of the officers who confronted him. Based on the evidence police gathered during Matte’s arrest, it appeared Matte and David Sweat were together in the hours prior to Matte’s capture by police. This was a significant turning point in the investigation; the police now had a new lead and a sense of direction in terms of the last known whereabouts of David Sweat. Strategically, the police had been pushing south from the Canadian border in an attempt to stop an anticipated run for the border by the two fugitives. And with a new starting point, the location where Matte was shot and captured, the police could concentrate their resources in the area where Sweat was last known to be.
More importantly, the arrest of Matte gave the police a decent idea about the condition that both fugitives were in; dehydrated, hungry, cold, wet, bug bitten and extremely exhausted.
While those are the kinds of things you hope for, every police officer knows it is also a point of desperation on the part of the fugitive making him more unpredictable and prone towards a violent encounter with the police.
I’ve been involved in manhunts, chased murders all over North America, and I can tell you that the thousands of officers involved in this chase were on heightened alert knowing that Matte was apprehended and Sweat, convicted for murdering a police officer, was going to be found in a matter of time.
So Sgt. Jay Cook, a veteran State Trooper, a husband, a father, a son was patrolling a remote area of a small town called Constable, just kilometres south of the Canadian border, when he saw a man running along a back road, all alone. Think about what must have been running through the mind of Sgt. Jay Cook that very moment: Could this be him, what am I going to do if it is him, what will he do, is her armed? The one thing I can speculate is that Sgt. Cook knew that if this was David Sweat, he had killed a police officer before, he would likely do anything to avoid being arrested and this encounter was going to be extremely dangerous and volatile. Without hesitation, Sgt. Cook got out of his car to confront the man and he recognized immediately that he was now face to face with David Sweat. As predicted, Sweat refused to surrender and started to run with Sgt. Cook in foot pursuit. The entire time, Sgt. Cook must have had and extreme adrenaline surge causing his heart to race rapidly, making the seconds feel like minutes, perhaps thinking about his own mortality and thoughts of his family…but he did not stop his pursuit. He courageously chased a convicted murderer of a police officer, all alone, with no backup in site.
With Sweat getting close to the tree line, where it would be impossible to keep up with him, Sgt. Cook made a split second decision to protect the public should David Sweat escape again. He fired two shots from his pistol and put the fleeing felon down.
Hours later, as the news reports of Sweat’s capture went across the globe; America embraced a new hero, Sgt. Jay Cook. I don’t know this man, although I would be honoured to meet him, but I do know police officers. Sgt. Cook did not do what he did for the accolades and the attention he truly deserves; I suspect he is probably feeling a little awkward and probably quite proud of what he and his team accomplished yesterday. I believe he put his life in harms way out of a sense of duty, reacting to his training, wanting to protect the community he served, for the families of the police officer who was tragically murdered previously by David Sweat, and because it was just the right thing to do!