NEWTON COUNTY, Ga. — Saturday is an emotional and special day in the Covington community as an officer shot in the line of duty led a run held in his honor.
Channel 2 Action News has been following Officer Matt Cooper's journey since 2018. A suspect shot Cooper in the head when he responded to a shoplifting call on Labor Day last year.
Cooper fought for his life through several surgeries in the following months. Throughout his recovery, the officer has been putting his heart and soul into physical therapy.
Cooper marked another goal off his list Saturday: to run in the department's annual Fuzz Run.
Channel 2's Christian Jennings captured the emotional and triumphant moment Cooper crossed the finish line. Jennings spoke with Cooper and his wife, Kristen Cooper, about what it felt like to get so much support from the community.
Kristen Cooper wiped away tears of joy as she ran alongside her husband Saturday morning.
Matt Cooper told Jennings that when he crossed the finish line, it was like graduation for him. He threw his hat in the air as the crowd cheered.
"It meant the world to me, and to be able to finish with a quick jog for at least 10 feet, it meant a lot to me," Cooper said. "To have everyone cheer me on... I'm beyond humbled by this city."
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Cooper said he had accomplished something he set his mind to when he started rehab.
The Covington Police Department has hosted its annual Fuzz Run for the past 36 years. This time last year, Capt. Ken Malcolm told Jennings he was just praying that Cooper would survive.
Malcolm said when Cooper began his rehab, the officer set a goal to run in this year's race.
"He was being told, his family was being told, that he would be in a wheelchair. He would not be in a position to run or walk," he said. "So for him to be able to get out and lead hundreds of people in a race is miraculous."
Malcolm wasn't the only one who was thrilled with Cooper's progress.
"This time last year, if you had told me this is where we were, I would have never believed you, and even the doctors wouldn't have believed you," Kristen Cooper said.
Cooper told Jennings that his next goal is to be able to drive again and to be there for his family.
"As long as I'm a beacon of hope to people, I'll keep doing what I'm doing. Right now my job is to get back, be a dad to my kids and husband to my wife," Cooper said. "And I'll be damned if I'm not going to do it."
Cox Media Group