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COP TALES: It was all preventable

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.

It was all preventable

While working a rural area which included a freeway and numerous rural county roads for the highway patrol, I received a call of an injury accident with medical aid en route. I was only a couple of miles away and was confident I would be the first one on scene. I arrived a couple of minutes later at a head-on collision between a car and a heavy box truck.

Apparently, the driver of the car attempted to pass slower traffic and collided head-on with the truck coming from the other direction. The road was blocked and debris was scattered everywhere. I approached the car, which had sustained major front end damage, and saw that the young female driver was pinned between the steering wheel and her seat. She was unconscious, facing the roof and gurgling. There was no way for me to remove her from the car, but I was able to retrieve a plastic airway from my EMT kit and insert it to open her airway. But that was all I could do due to her trapped position.

I then noticed an empty child seat in the back behind the driver, but there was no sign of a child. I even checked the surrounding area in case there had been an ejection. Once the fire department arrived and extricated the driver, she had succumbed to her injuries.

However, during the extraction, as they removed her, they were able to see an infant on the passenger floorboard. Although the baby was taken by helicopter to the hospital, she did not survive either. It appears that the baby was not strapped into the car seat and, upon impact, flew through the gap between the front seats onto the passenger floorboard. It was a sad, preventable death, as the back seat area was not compromised at all.

- LL

Where’s the plunger?

I served as the police chief in a ski community in California from 2010 through 2014. At the time, we had a grand total of 11 sworn officers. During my time there, we had two bank robberies. The second one occurred at the Bank of America in the mid-morning. We immediately had a good quality surveillance photo that we put on our website, a social media page, and a news release.

Within 15 minutes, one of my officers who previously had been a probation officer looked at the photo and recognized the suspect as a 25-year-old former probationer who used to be assigned to him. Not long after that, the social media page started to explode with associates of our bank robber.

Among the comments were; “That’s Sean and he’s still wearing the jacket he stole from me last week,” and “I told Sean not to do stupid %$#@ like that.” The best posts came from his mother, who first posted, “I don’t think that’s Sean. He doesn’t have that many tattoos,” followed a few minutes later with, “%$#@, that is Sean!” Our bank robber was positively identified by his own mother.

A couple of hours after the robbery, we got a call from the clerk at the local motel, who had been alerted by a friend that there had been a bank robbery. She looked at our social media page and recognized him as someone who had checked into the motel earlier that day. The cavalry responded and a sergeant had the manager call the room and ask him to come to the office because there was a problem with the registration.

Unfortunately, when he came out the door, he saw a police car parked up the street and slammed the door. We then had a barricaded suspect. We didn’t have a SWAT team, but our sergeant was able to talk him out of the room without any issues. We searched the motel room and found the replica gun that he used in a heater vent and the demand note, but as hard as we looked, we could not locate the money.

About two weeks later, we got another call from the motel staff. They rented that room out and the guests complained that the toilet was clogged. They sent an employee with a plunger, but that didn’t fix the problem. They called a plumber who removed the toilet and found a large wad of bills stuffed in the trap.

That closed the case and the district attorney was both pleased and amused when an attachment to the arrest report was a printout of all the social media comments that identified the suspect. Social media and technology can be our best friend at times.

- DW

Wait until Mom gets here

One afternoon, I answered a cellular 911 call at the highway patrol communications center.

I said, “911, where are you and what are you reporting?"

"We are downtown. My sister and I have been in a crash."

"Are there any injuries?"

"No, but I’m sure there will be after my mom gets here.”

"Please hold while I transfer you to the city police dispatch."

It was difficult to not laugh out loud during the call, but I sure did after I hung up.

- DS

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