Editor's Note: Introducing a new weekly feature called "Cop Tales," by Brian Smith. These are true stories as told by law enforcement officers from all over the country. The tales are told in the first person.
I was working on the freeway in the San Diego area when I received a call of a drive-by shooting on the freeway. When I arrived, I observed a male and female teenager standing on the shoulder next to their small Honda Civic. They were hugging each other and crying. As I approached them, I observed a young teenage boy sitting in the back seat. I asked the other two what happened. They advised they were just driving on the freeway when another car they never saw before drove by them and fired into their car. Several of the bullets struck the boy in the back seat.
I went to the vehicle, pulled the driver’s seat forward and saw the boy was bleeding from several parts of his body. I could see the boy was suffering, and he was sitting there all alone. I immediately called for medical aid and even though the vehicle was very small and I am over 6 foot, 3 inches, I climbed in the back seat, next to the boy. I put my arm around the boy, put his head on my shoulder and told him everything would be OK while I held him. The boy looked up at me, gave a half smile, gurgled and died in my arms.
It was a tragic event that I will never forget, but I will always know that he did not die alone; I comforted him during his final moments.
To get away from the bomb
When I was a captain with the state Highway Patrol in Visalia, I finished work one night and was on my way home when I observed a car pass someone using the right shoulder. I’ve learned that when someone passes on the right shoulder, they are usually trying to get away from a larger crime.
I stopped the vehicle and asked the 60-something-year-old driver why he was driving that way. He stated, "I was trying to get away from the bomb."
I said, "Bomb, what bomb?"
He said, "Bomb?"
I said, "You said you had a bomb."
He said, "No, I didn't."
I said, "OK, let me start over. Why were you driving that way?"
He said, "Because I have a bunch of stolen rifles and shotguns in my trunk."
I called for another unit since he was acting so odd. Once the back-up officer arrived, I directed the driver to get out of the vehicle and patted him down. I then asked him if I could open the trunk. He said I could.
When I opened the trunk, it was loaded with rifles and shotguns. I ran a couple of the serial numbers and they were stolen. When I ran his criminal history, I was told he was a felon. When I asked what the felony was, they advised he was convicted for blowing up an abortion center.
I then remembered his earlier statement about the bomb. I asked where he was coming from and he said he was at the Lemoore Naval Station. I asked for specifics, but he didn’t know the locations. He said he didn't know if he set up a bomb there or not. All proper authorities were notified immediately, but no bomb was ever found. It turns out all the firearms were stolen. I think I will keep looking for those right shoulder passers.
Two weeks before Christmas, I was driving a black and white Mustang patrol car when I stopped a woman on the freeway for speeding and expired registration. She also had a suspended driver’s license. She had 4-year-old twin boys with her. She started to cry and told me she didn’t have any money and couldn’t afford a ticket. She also told me she couldn’t afford to buy anything for her boys for Christmas. I couldn’t let her continue to drive on a suspended license, so I had to tow her vehicle and I drove her home. When I arrived at her house, I noticed it was a one-bedroom apartment with no Christmas tree or any decorations.
I dropped them off, returned to the station and traded my Mustang for a larger patrol car. I bought a Christmas tree, decorations, gifts for them and other Christmas items. I drove to her house and gave her all the items. She cried as she hugged me. Since I was also volunteering at the church’s toy drive, I was able to get a bike for each of the boys. I suggested she put the bikes and other gifts away for Christmas morning.
I know I gave them the gifts, but I felt like I was the one who received so much that day. I never saw them again, but I think of them all the time around the holidays.