DENNIS YUSKO and CATHY WOODRUFF
Courtesy of the Albany Times Union


ALBANY, N.Y.-- State Trooper Donald Baker Jr. returned to the Capital Region Thursday thanking supporters, fellow troopers and the doctors who gave him a "second chance at life" -- his first public statements since being ambushed and shot in western New York more than two months ago.

"Although I have spent the last couple of months away from home, my recovery process has been made easier because of the tremendous support and prayers I have received from everyone in my hometown of Clifton Park and the surrounding Albany area," Baker, 38, said in a news release issued by State Police. "I can assure you that your support and prayers were heard loud and clear and were much appreciated."

Police released Baker's remarks as he was flown to Albany Medical Center Hospital Thursday after spending 10 weeks in Hamot Medical Center in Erie, Pa. Medical personnel checked his wounds and are expected to report on his condition today, State Trooper Maureen Tuffey said.

"They have to re-evaluate him before they can even attach a condition," Tuffey said. "A helicopter ride is a big deal for someone in his condition. We expect some kind of report in the morning, but will have to check with the family before we put it out."

Baker's sisters, Diane Fraser and Darlene Glassman, both said they were thrilled to have their brother home but declined to comment further, saying their brother can speak for himself now.

Baker is recovering from a traumatic gunshot wound to the side of the back sustained Aug. 31 during the hunt for fugitive Ralph "Bucky" Phillips in western New York. Trooper Joseph Longobardo of Greenfield was fatally wounded while standing guard with Baker outside Phillips' ex-girlfriend's home. Phillips is suspected of shooting both troopers, as well as Trooper Sean Brown in Chemung County in June.

Baker underwent numerous operations and weeks of physical therapy at Hamot Medical Center, where he said he received "exceptional medical care that gave me a second chance at life," according to the statement.

His treatment will continue at Albany Medical Center. Tuffey could not say when Baker could return home. Baker's wife, Tracey, has said her husband wants to continue his career as a trooper.

In Baker's statement, he thanked members of Troop A, who he said sat by his side when his life hung in the balance, and active and retired troopers and their families who assisted the Baker family.

Also held up for praise by Baker were New York State Police Employee Assistance Program personnel, trauma doctors and the ICU nurses at Hamot, the FBI, residents of Pennsylvania and more. "To the New York State Police: I am honored to be a part of such an elite organization," Baker said.

Here is the full statement State Police released Thursday from this statement from State Trooper Donald H. Baker Jr.:

"I would first like to thank all the personnel of Hamot Medical Center in Erie, Pa., especially the trauma doctors and the ICU nurses who provided me with exceptional medical care that gave me a second chance at life. Your professionalism, skills and expertise are second to none and I will never forget all you have done for me and my family.

"To the FBI, City of Erie Police Department, surrounding police agencies and the citizens of Pennsylvania: Your prayers and support are what helped my family and I get through these past ten weeks and I thank you very much. I especially want to thank the Pennsylvania State Police, a truly professional organization who treated me like one of their own. Thank you to the individuals who make up the Pennsylvania State Police Member Assistance Program for being there for my family during this time. Your support and kindness will never be forgotten. I would also like to thank the residents of Chautauqua County for their continued support during my recovery.

"To the New York State Police: I am honored to be a part of such an elite organization. I would like to thank the Troopers from Troop A who sat by my side each night when my condition was critical and uncertain. Thank you to all the active and retired New York State Troopers and their families who went out of their way to provide assistance to me and my family. A special thanks to all the New York State Police Employee Assistance Program personnel who provided us with guidance, assistance, friendship, and insured that my family and I were well cared for during this time.

"To my fellow MRT members: words alone cannot express the gratitude that I feel towards you. I am extremely proud to be associated with such high caliber individuals and I will never forget what you all have done for me and my family. Thank You!

"Although I have spent the last couple of months away from home, my recovery process has been made easier because of the tremendous support and prayers I have received from everyone in my hometown of Clifton Park and the surrounding Albany, NY, area. I can assure you that your support and prayers were heard loud and clear and were much appreciated. Thank you all for everything you have done for my family and me."