Brian Smith

Brian Smith

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.

Is that a real body?

One day while working as an officer for the highway patrol, I received a call of an accident on a back road near an orchard. When I arrived, I saw a vehicle by the edge of the orchard and it looked like a dead woman’s body lying next to the vehicle. A man told me he was driving by the orchard when he saw the woman, so he called 911 to report it. He told me he did not see anything or anyone around the area. I obtained his information and he left. As I looked closer at the body, I could see the top of her head was cleanly sliced off, but it didn’t look like a real body. I started to think someone set it up as a sick joke to scare people. As I investigated further, I realized that it was a woman, but I guessed she looked very different due to the loss of blood and brain material.

When the coroner’s deputy arrived, we looked closer at the head and tried to figure out how it occurred. It was very strange. I impounded the vehicle and continued the investigation by visiting the man who reported the incident. After a few minutes, I could sense he was hiding something and knew more than he was telling me. I confronted him and he eventually told me everything.

He advised me that he and the woman, who were both married and had children, were having an affair. The woman was sitting in the driver’s seat of her car when she dropped something on the ground. When she bent over to pick it up, she fell forward. Apparently, the vehicle was in gear and as she fell forward, her foot slipped off the brake pedal and her head fell under the vehicle. The sharp edge of the bottom of the door sliced off the top of her head. He said he panicked, called us and left because he did not want anyone to know about their affair. I had the bottom of the vehicle examined and there was skin and hair along the bottom edge. It was such a strange case. If he didn’t tell me what had occurred, I don’t think I would have ever figured that one out.

- BS

Please let that be the same guy

I was the only unit working the north end of the county for the highway patrol, even though it was a large area to cover. I grew up in that county so I was very familiar with all the roadways. Halfway through my day shift, which had been very uneventful, I thought I would take a jog off the freeway. I had driven up and down it about five times already. I drove through a small unincorporated town with a population of about 50 people. As I “rolled” into town, I saw a young man on a motorcycle roll through the only stop sign in town. I turned to stop him, fully intent on giving him a strong warning, but he cranked the throttle before I even put on the red light. Needless to say, I fired up all the lights and the chase was on.

We zig-zagged through a series of county roads with me keeping him in sight until he hit a hard right turn. As I cranked my 1983 Dodge Diplomat into the same turn, the engine seized. As I later learned, the Diplomat had a tendency for all the oil to pool when faced with a hard turn, which would cause the engine to seize. I sat there turning the ignition to no avail as Mister Hot Shoe drove off into the tomato field mist. I figured that’s the way it goes sometimes, although I may have kicked the front bumper of my Diplomat a time or two.

Two days later, I was cruising up the freeway enjoying another day of many miles on a flat, straight interstate when I looked over on the frontage road and saw a young man pushing a motorcycle. A big smile appeared on my face as I realized it was the same motorcyclist from two days prior. Back then, helmets were not required and I absolutely recognized him as the same guy.

I exited the freeway, doubled back and made contact. It turned out that he was out of gas. When I contacted him, he said he was working at the time of our prior encounter. I asked for his place of work, his supervisor’s name and a phone number. My hard core interrogation paid off and he confessed to everything. I charged him with driving on a suspended license, failure to stop for a stop sign, and evading arrest while putting others in danger. I also impounded his motorcycle. When I finished all of that, I went back and rubbed out the shoe marks on the front bumper of my Diplomat.

- DG

Family discount?

While patrolling a rural community on the night shift as a highway patrol officer, my partner and I pulled up behind a vehicle that was stopping at a stop sign. We noted that the brake lights on the vehicle were not working so we made a traffic stop. The woman driver was not aware that the lights were not working and she was issued a "Fix It Warning." Later in the shift, we stopped a vehicle that was weaving and speeding in a residential zone. The driver had been drinking and did not pass the roadside sobriety test. He was arrested and his vehicle was turned over to his passenger.

After the booking was completed, we were on our way to a coffee shop when we witnessed a vehicle drive through a stop sign and speed away. We gave chase and stopped the vehicle. We noticed it was the same vehicle that our drunken driver had been driving earlier. The driver turned out to be the drunken driver’s sister and she too had been drinking. She was on her way to bail her brother out of jail. She also failed the sobriety test and was arrested on suspicion of DUI. Since the vehicle was parked legally on a safe street just blocks from the jail, we did not tow the vehicle. We asked our dispatcher to call the driver's mother to come get it.

After the booking, we decided to finally go eat at the café. During our meal, we were notified by telephone to respond to a non-injury accident. When we arrived at the scene, we were surprised to see that the overturned vehicle, which was the only vehicle involved, was the same one we had left parked at the scene of our earlier arrest. When we located the driver, it turned out to be the driver of the car with no brake lights we had stopped earlier in our shift. It turned out that she was the mother of both the man and the woman we had arrested for DUI. I was reminded of the old radio soap opera, "One Man's Family."

- 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

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