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COP TALES: A refreshing talk with a young man

Cop Tales are true stories as told by law enforcement officers from all over the country. The stories are told in the first person. The actual officer’s initials follow each story.

A refreshing talk with a young man

I recently spoke at a local Rotary Club meeting about Cop Tales. When the meeting was over and I was about to leave, a young gentleman who, I believe, recently graduated from college, approached me. He told me that he took part in the protests which occurred during the past year in Los Angeles. He advised that while he was there, he supported the “Defund the Police” movement.

He said that while he watched people riot, burn police cars, damage buildings and set items on fire, he could see the genuine concern on the faces of the officers. He said he saw the fear in the officers’ faces and realized that those officers put their fears aside to help others.

He told me that he learned a lot that day and he changed his views on law enforcement officers. He now respects and supports them. It was really refreshing for me to hear from him. Maybe we still have a chance.

- BS

Thank God I was close by

I had just finished lunch with a couple of other highway patrol officers at a local restaurant. I was merging onto the northbound freeway on my motorcycle when dispatch broadcast a call of a possible suicidal person who was sighted on the overcrossing. Since it was the very next exit, I was only seconds away. I observed a male standing barefoot on top of the cement edge of the overcrossing.

I was worried the young man was going to jump before I could get off my motor. I recognized the person was a possible mental health consumer by his actions and by the way he was dressed. I had recently taken mental health awareness training and tried to slow things down and make contact with the young man, who looked to be in his late teens.

I faked that I could not hear him and motioned to my ears and for him to come closer. I took my helmet and gloves off so he could see my face and I would be able to hear him better. I was approximately 15 feet from the young man. I asked him his name and told him my name to open up a conversation and keep him looking at me. The person related his name was John and he stated he hated life and wanted to die. I motioned to John to come closer and told him that I could not hear him. As John came closer, he lost his balance and almost fell. At that point, I was convinced I was going to watch him die. I noticed the traffic below was stopped and several people were out of their cars.

While asking John to come down off the concrete ledge, he lost his balance and fell onto the shoulder. He immediately got back up and attempted to jump over the concrete wall. I was able to wrap my arms around him and pin him on the railing as he was straddling the concrete ledge. He was strong and probably outweighed me by 30 or so pounds. I am 6’4” and weigh 235 pounds. Two good Samaritans stopped in their work truck and helped me get John off the bridge rail and place him into custody.

John was super emotional and put up an attempt to get back up, so I just talked to him and tried to convince him I was there to help him. I told him there was somebody who loved him and would be devastated if he was not around anymore. While waiting for the cavalry to arrive (fellow officers, EMS, fire), John let out a huge sigh, and just relaxed. He had those huge crocodile tears rolling down his face and I could tell he was a huge teddy bear and didn’t have the eyes of someone who wanted to hurt people.

He had an honest face and was lost in his world. He explained he had recently lost a good high school football friend who had died by suicide and he wanted to do the same. I let him sit up and squeezed the top of his shoulder with my hand as if it was a hug and reassured him it was going to be OK and that I cared about him.

Once I got him up on his feet, he asked me to get out a piece of paper from his right front pocket. On the note of paper was his name and instructions to call his parents once he jumped. That hit me like a bolt of lightning. After we got him in the ambulance, I called both of his parents and explained what happened. They were both very appreciative and thanked me for helping their son. About an hour later, my adrenaline dumped, and I was super tired. I went back to the office and typed out my report and went home.

The next day during briefing, my sergeant played a video for all the officers in the room. It was a video of my incident. I did not know there was a video and after watching it, my adrenaline surged again. Crazy how that can happen a day later. After getting criticized by a couple of fellow officers who thought I should not have risked my life so much, I thought about it more. I don’t think I would have changed a thing. I was glad that I was close when the call came out and that I was able to keep John from ending his life due to a temporary problem.

- CS

Brian Smith served four years in the U.S. Marine Corps, and retired as an assistant chief with the California Highway Patrol. He resides in Bakersfield. If you have a personal “Cop Tale” to share, please contact Smith at

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