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COP TALES: I'm glad I checked on this driver

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.

I’m glad I checked

One day while zipping up and down the freeway for the highway patrol, I was issuing speeding tickets and checking on stopped vehicles that were disabled, lost or sleepy. I had gone home for dinner and was out making one last swoop of my beat before calling it a night and heading “back to the barn” (office) for the night. As I was on my way back in, it began to rain, and as I glanced across the dirt center median strip, I saw a car stopped on the shoulder with its lights on. It was a few miles to the next turn around, and I figured it was probably just another driver stopped to check their map or switch drivers and would be gone by the time I got turned around to check on them, as had happened many times in the past. However, something prompted me to turn around and check on it anyway.

I pulled in behind the vehicle, which was stopped on the shoulder of the road. I noticed the driver kept tapping the brakes as they would come on intermittently. The interior light was on and as I approached, I could see the lone occupant seated in the driver’s seat. She was a senior citizen and she had both hands on the wheel and was steering, even though the car was not running. The driver’s window was partially open and she was getting wet from the light rain. I also noticed that she had soiled herself. She was awake and did not seem to be in medical distress but did not respond verbally to my questions.

I saw her purse on the seat beside her and explained I was going to reach in and open it to see if I could help her find her identification. I found her license and ran a check on her and her vehicle. Turns out she was a missing person from another county north of us and had been gone for more than a day. She was unaware she had run out of gas and thought she was still driving.

Our dispatcher made contact with the family who was so grateful she had been found. They said she had left to go get her hair done because it was her birthday. I gently guided her back to my patrol car and used a blanket to help keep her dry and warm, summoned a tow truck using her AAA membership and took her back to the area office to await a happy reunion with her family.

— PB

His lucky day

I was patrolling a rural interstate for the highway patrol early on a Sunday morning. As you can guess, there wasn’t much traffic at that time and people took advantage of that by treating the freeway as a racetrack. Sure enough, it didn’t take long for me to get my first catch of the day. As I approached the lone occupant, I noticed the large keychain hanging from the ignition with various keys and fobs. It didn’t look like any keychain a man would carry.

My suspicions increased when he couldn’t tell me who the car belonged to and couldn’t produce any identification. I ran the plate, which came back clear, and even had our dispatcher try to call the registered owner. They only reached an answering machine for a car dealership. After writing the citation and impounding the car due to the driver being unlicensed, I gave the driver a ride off the freeway to a truck stop.

Approximately 30 minutes later, dispatch advised me that an adjacent law enforcement agency had attempted to enter the vehicle as stolen and saw that our agency had impounded it. Apparently, it had been recently purchased, which is why it still showed as being registered to a dealership. However, if the other agency entered the stolen vehicle into the system sooner, I would have been alerted when I ran the plate. Unfortunately, I was not able to locate him at the truck stop.

- LL

It was out of respect

It was about 6 p.m., in 2015, when my partner and I were on patrol and received a call of an attempted hanging involving a juvenile. Our stomachs started turning instantly. We immediately rolled code 3. While en route, another unit backed us. Unbeknownst to me, the unit that backed us knew that address and family. As both units arrived, the family was frantically flagging us down. I knew things had to be really bad. I immediately grabbed my ambu bag (a CPR mask) and ran with my partner officers. We ran up the stairs and saw the father frantic with pain and angst on his face. He was doing CPR on his son. As a father, I could feel his pain, but told myself not to go there. I asked him to move as I took point over the child’s head, unzipped my CPR mask and told my partner to start compressions.

My partner did the compressions as I did the breaths. I saw the air fill the chest then come back down. I did that twice, then checked for a pulse. I then felt the ligature marks in the carotid artery on the neck. I knew that poor kid had passed, but when I looked at the father watching us, I knew we had to continue. I saw the hope in his eyes and I swear I could hear the thoughts in his head for us to save his boy. I looked back at my partner and gave him the go ahead for more compressions and I gave more breaths. We did that for a long time until the ambulance arrived. The rescue worker placed the electrodes on the kid and gave him a jolt from the defibrillator. He then looked back and pronounced the time of death. The father just collapsed. We all tried to give our condolences.

Some people may ask why we gave CPR to the boy when he had already passed. We did it out of respect for the family and the father who just spent so long performing CPR on his son. We didn’t want to give the perception that we didn’t care. So we pushed and pushed until we were relieved. Of course, it was a call that every parent and cop feared. God bless him and his family.

- CB

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