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COP TALES: A wet and wild ride

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 wet ride

I was working for the highway patrol on a cold and wet winter day. I had a friend of mine riding along that day who had aspirations of getting into police work. We were short-handed for the shift with a total of two units covering the entire area.

Around 9 a.m., a call from dispatch broke the silence with information of a body floating down the California Aqueduct. Whatever it was, it would no doubt find its way into the lake. So that's where we headed.

As we approached the lake, we noticed a crowd of people standing around the entry gate. I asked the folks if anyone noticed anything floating in the water that looked like a body. We were advised of a naked man lying on the beach next to the water. I asked if the man was alive, and just as they answered "yes," I observed the man walking near the top of the embankment and toward the patrol car. While he approached the car (stark naked), I reasoned in my mind that his clothes had been ripped off due to the swift water, the rough concrete walls of the canal, and the 1,700 feet of siphon tube he had just gone through.

As he stepped up to my driver's window, which was rolled down, I reached down under the dash for the trunk release button and told him to get in the back seat and I would get him a blanket. He quickly reached through the window, said a swear word, and ripped my badge off the raincoat jacket I was wearing. He immediately began trotting back toward the lake while holding my badge on his buttox. I was in a state of temporary shock as well as slightly angry that he had ripped my badge off.

Feeling that the incident had a chance of getting out of hand, I called for back-up and let dispatch know I had a mentally unstable person on my hands. I reached the edge of the embankment just in time to see the man toss my badge as far as he could into the lake. After tossing my badge, he forcibly removed the coat from a woman fishing at the water's edge, as well as relieving her of her fishing pole.

I started to become mentally unstable as well and I started running full steam toward the man. As he turned and saw me running down the embankment, he jumped into the lake and headed for deep water. Like a fool, I jumped into the lake after him. Thankfully, as I moved into deeper water, a light came on in my brain, making me realize that I may drown with all the equipment I had on. I retreated back to the beach and attempted to talk the guy out of the water without success. The entire time I was attempting to talk him out of the water, he was going through the motion of casting with the woman's pole he had taken.

My next idea was to challenge him. So I invited him to rip the rest of my uniform off like he had done with my badge. He dropped the fishing pole into the lake, took off the coat he was wearing and threw it in as well. (He was completely naked again.) As he made his way out of the water, and not knowing what he would do, I took my gun-belt off and handed it to my friend who had been riding along with me (after all, the man was obviously unarmed). At this time, he ran full steam straight at me and before I knew it, the tussle was on.

Thankfully, I had more adrenaline pumping through my veins than whatever he had going through his. I was able to put him face down into the sand while applying a departmental approved carotid hold. The next thing I realized, my back-up partner arrived and the man was placed in handcuffs.

I learned how he ended up in the canal. He had been hitchhiking on the freeway when a truck driver picked him up. While driving, he started to go crazy, so the truck driver kicked him out of his truck near the aqueduct. He walked to the aqueduct, took his clothes off and jumped in. Someone saw him and called it in. Of course, I had to get a new badge as mine is still down there somewhere.

- JW

Glad it didn’t happen to me

Several years ago, while working the night shift with the highway patrol in a semi-rural area, I responded to assist at the termination point of a pursuit of a stolen vehicle. I arrived on the scene to a dirt field at the edge of a citrus orchard. The suspect driver had fled into the orchard and it was extremely dark outside. The initiating officers had not pursued on foot and elected to wait for more officers and a K-9. As the K-9 arrived from the local sheriff’s department, out stepped this big tough looking deputy. We all know K-9 handlers are a different breed (and they know it too) and this guy showed no fear in going into the darkness of the orchard.

We developed our plan, decided to split up in teams of two and spread out to cover more space as we swept through the orchard. Ready, set, go. My partner and I started into our section of the orchard with our guns out. We walked quietly through the orchard listening for any noise to indicate the location of the suspect.

A few minutes into the search, I was startled by a loud, sudden high-pitched scream. It sounded like it came from my left side. My partner and I quickly made our way over to find that big tough K-9 handler wiping his hands all over his face, head and body. It looked like the scene from the second “Ace Ventura” movie when he ran out of the bat cave and yelled, “It’s in my hair, it’s in my hair.” After the initial concern wore off, his cover officer explained that the handler had walked right into a spider web between two trees.

We all had a good laugh, quietly being thankful it wasn’t one of us. If you know anything about orchards, the spiders that spin those webs are HUGE and like to sit in the middle of them. To this day, I am more careful when going into orchards. I am glad I learned that lesson through someone else’s embarrassment.

- RS

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