S. Orangetown superintendent receives Liberty Award

South Orangetown Superintendent Ken Mitchell was awarded New York's highest civilian honor Friday for taking down an alleged gunman who stormed into a local school Tuesday.

Dozens of people gathered at the South Orangetown Middle School library to commend Mitchell's bravery during his confrontation with Peter Cocker, a parent and former NYPD police officer who allegedly entered the school, forced his way into Mitchell's office and held him hostage at gunpoint. However, Mitchell says he was able to disarm Cocker and wrestle him to the ground until police arrived.

"To take that challenge head on in spite of the danger to your own personal life truly is remarkable and has to be admired," says state Sen. Tom Morahan (R), who presented Mitchell with the Liberty Award.

Officials say Cocker was apparently upset over a letter regarding swine flu sent out to parents by the school district.

Student Yvonne Cheng says if it were not for Mitchell's actions, the outcome of the incident could have been tragic.

"The superintendent basically just saved all of our lives, and if it wasn't for him, some of us may not be here right now," she says.

Mitchell, however, does not view himself as a hero.

"I was very, very lucky," he says. "It was less about heroism and more about someone watching over me and making sure the circumstances were right."

In addition to state lawmakers, town officials also plan to recognize Mitchell's courageous behavior. The superintendent will be honored by Orangetown board members at the end of the June.

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