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.

MY FIRST OFFICER INVOLVED SHOOTING

As an officer with the Highway Patrol, I was only off probation by one month and I was already skilled at detecting drunk drivers. On a beautiful Sunday in May, I was working the afternoon shift and had just returned to the beat after arresting a Driving Under the Influence (DUI) driver. I stopped by an outside phone booth and while I was on the phone, a 20-something male driver pulled up behind me and picked up the phone receiver two phones down from mine. I could immediately smell alcohol on his breath. He hung up the phone, got in his truck and, rather than drive out the driveway, he drove over the curb. The bottom of his truck scraped the curb. He then stopped right in front of me, leaned down so he could make eye contact, and looked at me as if to say, "What are you going to do about it?"

There wasn't much I could do, so I waved him over. He just floored it and took off. I jumped in my patrol car and went after him. I got behind him with my lights and siren on and he continued to evade me. He finally pulled into a gas station. I asked for his license and registration. He did not have a license with him, but fumbled through the glove box and handed me an envelope with his name on it. I directed him out of the vehicle to conduct Field Sobriety Tests. He couldn't even maintain his balance with his eyes closed and finally let out an expletive and started to run away. He was wearing a T-shirt, jeans and sneakers, and I was wearing my full uniform and gear, a bulletproof vest and boots. I told dispatch my location and I was in foot pursuit.

I reached out and grabbed his T-shirt. He turned around, punched me in the face and took off. I caught up to him on the other side of the street and attempted to just take him to the ground. He tried fighting me, so I took out my baton and hit him a couple of times on the outside of his knee. He then took off running down the sidewalk, and I ripped the rest of his shirt off as he pulled away. It appeared as though he was going to get away, but then he just stopped, turned around and started to run back towards me to attack me. We fought a little more, then he took off again. This time, he had a bigger jump on me and would have been long gone, but rather than just run away, he turned again and charged at me. This time, I went to strike him in the clavicle, but he put both of his hands on my gun and tried to pull it out of my holster. I was afraid the gun would come out, so I pushed him back. When I did that, he knocked the baton out of my hand, and it fell to the ground. We both bent over to pick it up, but he got it first. I backed up against a wall. He then raised up the baton and was about to strike me in the head. I drew my handgun and yelled for him to drop it. He continued to swing towards my head, so I shot him one time. I actually saw the bullet hit his bare chest. I holstered my weapon and helped him to the ground. I tried to administer first aid, but I knew he wasn’t going to make it. I immediately called for medical aid as I did all I could.

The shooting occurred around 7 p.m., but due to the preliminary investigation, I didn't get home until about 2:30 a.m. As I walked in the front door of my house, it suddenly hit me, I killed someone. I knew it was either him or I, but it didn't change the fact that I had to take a human life.

— BS

THANK GOD FOR THAT STEERING WHEEL

My partner and I were working the graveyard shift, when my partner pulled over a station wagon as a possible DUI. It was a warm summer night, about 1 a.m. The car with a single occupant pulled over in front of a night club. Some club patrons were standing outside under the marquee lights.

My partner approached on the driver’s side, as I approached on the passenger side, a couple of steps ahead of my partner. I used my flashlight to check the inside of the vehicle. As I looked in the open, passenger side window, I saw the driver looking over his left shoulder for my partner. He was holding a cocked, western style .45 caliber revolver as he waited for my partner to approach.

I yelled a warning, dropped my flashlight and drew my .357 magnum. As I did, the whole world went into super slow motion around me. My mind was racing. I could see people around me starting to move away in slow motion. The suspect’s head slowly turned toward me. His hand with the gun started to swing around at me. I started to pull the trigger, as I was only three feet away. I felt like I was in one of those dreams where you are trying to run away with concrete blocks on your feet. As his gun was coming around, I felt like I was squeezing the trigger with all my might. The hammer of my pistol was slowly coming back and I kept repeating to myself, “Go off, go off.” As the suspect’s hand pivoted toward me, the gun hit the steering wheel and it knocked the gun out of his hand. I watched it “float” to the floor. In that split second I thought, “He dropped the gun, mine is going to fire, but it is justified.” Then I realized I had time to release the pressure on the trigger. I was able to stop in time.

The suspect was over 6 feet tall, and in excess of 250 pounds. He was only 16 years old. He was mildly mentally challenged. Local deputies later advised they knew the boy and he had a fetish for playing cops and robbers. They related he often ran out from cover and shot at them with a cap pistol.

The gun used in my incident was a non-firing replica. I came so close to taking his life that night. I am so grateful that my brain was able to think so many thoughts in those few split seconds.

— JH

WEAR IT ALL TIMES

I was working an administrative position in a Highway Patrol office along the freeway corridor when I heard radio traffic over the office speakers that sounded like an officer in distress. I glanced over to the other officer I shared an office with and he had the same concerned look on his face. We both began to put on our gun belts when we heard more traffic. The officer advised that she was in pursuit of a vehicle and the driver had her gun. They were less than a mile away. As I and the three other officers (my partner, the shift sergeant and lieutenant commander) all grabbed car keys and ran out of the office, two patrol units were positioned to enter the pursuit just a few miles away.

As they entered the pursuit, those of us from the office had also jumped on the freeway and were attempting to catch up. A few minutes later, the suspect exited the freeway, took the off-ramp too fast, went across the intersection at the top of the ramp, and stopped just over a small embankment. Our officers stopped in the intersection, and exited their vehicles with weapons drawn, as the driver got out of his vehicle and began shooting. Our officers returned fire and killed the suspect. It was over quickly, and the suspect was down before those of us who had responded from the office arrived at the termination point. Three of our officers were shot. One was shot in the foot, one was nicked on the leg and another was wounded in the chest from a ricocheted bullet. He was saved by his Kevlar vest.

When I later listened to the radio tape, I discovered that it was only 45 seconds from the time the officers broadcast "shots fired" until I arrived. During my response, I thought it was very likely that I was responding to a gunfight since the guy had already taken an officer's weapon and yet I was not wearing my bulletproof vest. Since I started the administrative position, I stopped wearing it, believing it to be largely unnecessary. That incident changed my point of view. I then understood that not wearing my vest could be deadly, especially since my wife told me she would kill me if she found out I wasn't wearing it.

— LL

HE'S REALLY NOT A BAD GUY

I work for a small city police department. Over the years, I had arrested every one of the four children of a well-known family in town. They were either stealing or using drugs. I arrested them so many times we were on a first-name basis. I had never met their mother, but that was about to change.

One afternoon, my partner and I got a report of a woman who was intoxicated at a local gas station. We were busy following up on other cases and this call was going to put us behind. When we arrived, we found a woman seated on the curb in front of the business and she was definitely drunk. I realized she was the mother of the kids I arrested.

She was one of those pleasant drunks. We were busy and I didn’t want to arrest her for drunk in public, so I called her a cab. She said she didn’t have the $5 for the cab so when it arrived, I paid for it. I then became her hero. She was so happy and told my partner that I was a kind and generous person.

She then told my partner that I was nothing like that no good cop who was always arresting her kids. As my partner placed her in the cab, she asked him what my name was so she could call the chief and say thank you. He told her. As the cab departed, you could hear her screaming my name in anger for several blocks.

Smile and wave, smile and wave.

— EW

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 bmsmith778@gmail.com.

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