20 months after being shot in head, Covington police officer returns to work

Covington police Officer Matt Cooper

Credit: Channel 2 Action News / Covington Police Department

Credit: Channel 2 Action News / Covington Police Department

Covington police Officer Matt Cooper

He’s had to fight for his life, undergoing several surgeries and enduring months of rehabilitation after being shot in the head while responding to a shoplifting call.

The city rallied behind Covington police Officer Matt Cooper after he was shot between his eyes and the bullet traveled to his carotid artery, miraculously clotting his blood and saving his life.

In the aftermath, Cooper’s badge number “148” became a common symbol of support in the community.

RELATED: Wife of wounded Covington officer thanks thousands who came to 'Fuzz Run'

On Monday, more than 20 months after the incident, Cooper brought both the bullet  — which will stay with him forever — and his badge back to work.

“It is a great day at the Covington Police Department having Matt back in this building,” police Chief Stacey Cotton told AJC.com in an email. “It is long awaited and we are grateful that he has battled back to make this day happen!”

Cooper was shot on a day when most Americans were not working: Labor Day 2018.

He was pursuing a shoplifting suspect at a Walmart off Industrial Boulevard. The man accused of shooting Cooper, 21-year-old Aaron Demonta Fleming, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, according to the GBI.

The critically wounded cop was flown to Grady Memorial Hospital, where he underwent immediate surgery to relieve pressure on his brain. He was then transferred to the Shepherd Center, where he remained until days before Christmas.

MORE: Injured Covington officer completes rehab, to be home for Christmas

Cooper, a father of two and a former Army Airborne veteran who had served in both Afghanistan and Iraq, previously told Channel 2 Action News that God, his family and the Covington community helped keep him focused on recovering. A GoFundMe page created for his family has raised more than $41,000.

“I feel very appreciative of all the donations and prayers and support from my community,” he said.

As time passed, so did his goals. At first, he was fighting to live another day. Then he was relearning how to walk. And now — 623 days later — he’s completed the last major step of his recovery by putting back on his badge.

“There’s always going to be a time when you face hardships,” he told Channel 2 this week. “Never give up. Never quit. And I’m never going to quit until the day I die.”

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