Skip to main content
You have permission to edit this article.

COP TALES: Just take responsibility

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.

Just take responsibility

As a young highway patrolman, I stopped a man for speeding and approached the vehicle. The driver, who was alone, told me he didn’t have his license or wallet with him, but he knew his driver’s license number. He handed me the vehicle registration and told me it was his girlfriend’s car. I ran the plates and they returned clear. I ran his license and it matched his description and it was valid (we didn’t have fingerprint pads in the cars at that time). I issued him a citation and cleared the stop.

Six weeks later, he fought the citation and we went to court. I always kept good notes, so I wasn’t concerned about the hearing. However, when he testified, he advised that he never got stopped and that someone else must have used his driver’s license. The judge asked me if I could positively identify him. I told the judge that I was almost positive it was him, but I didn’t want to swear to it. I asked the defendant if he knew the registered owner of the vehicle and he said he never heard of her. I asked the judge for a continuance so I could investigate it, but he dismissed the citation.

I left the courtroom and drove to the registered owner’s house. I asked her if she knew the defendant and she told me that he was her ex-boyfriend. She had a few choice words for him. I took the information to the deputy district attorney and we spoke to the judge. The judge was not happy about being lied to and immediately told me that he wanted the suspect arrested for perjury. I think it would have been a lot better for the defendant if he just took responsibility for his actions.

- BS

The vampire van murderer

On the evening of Aug. 10, 1978, I was working for the highway patrol with another unit on the freeway. My beat partner was a training officer with a new officer who had just graduated from the academy. They stopped a van on an off-ramp for a minor traffic violation. The vehicle pulled over when the officers activated the red light. However, the driver quickly exited his vehicle and ran. The new trainee put out a call for assistance and I immediately responded to the location of the traffic stop. My beat partner and his trainee were able to capture and arrest the driver.

I was at the location of the driver's van when the officers returned him to his vehicle. We looked into the van and found a dead woman, who was rolled up in a carpet. Her body was found to be partially dismembered. It appeared the driver had devoured some of her body parts. It was a gruesome sight, especially for a new officer. The suspect was arrested for murder, kidnapping, mutilation of body, etc. The driver did not stand trial for his acts of violence. He was determined by the court to be incompetent to stand trial. He was confined to a state institution for an undetermined amount of time.

- HG

Blind and drunk

It was a nice sunny Sunday morning and my partner and I were working a special detail when we heard dispatch send an officer to a car dealership regarding a robbery and vehicle theft that had just occurred. Apparently, two men had been looking at a car when they attacked the salesperson and stole the brand-new 5.0-liter Ford Mustang. Dispatch broadcasted the vehicle and suspect descriptions to local units and agencies.

About three hours later, dispatch put out a radio call for, “Any unit available to assist the highway patrol who were following the stolen Mustang.” There was no response, so the dispatcher contacted the lieutenant by radio and asked him who he wanted to send, as all units were tied up on calls. I grabbed the microphone and told the lieutenant that we could assist from our detail. He said, “OK, go get ‘em.” We went to the nearest freeway on-ramp and parked. Dispatch told us the highway patrol unit was trailing the vehicle and was not going to make a stop until we were in position. We saw the Mustang go by at about 65 mph with the highway patrol behind it. We pulled in behind the unit and the Mustang exited at the next off-ramp.

The Mustang immediately accelerated, ran a stop sign and turned left onto a rural two-lane road. We activated our overhead lights, and the chase was on. The Mustang accelerated to 110 mph and took several sweeping turns. We were then traveling on a rural, two-lane road that was lined with eucalyptus trees with varying diameters of six to eight feet. The Mustang and the highway patrol unit accelerated and pulled away from us. The dispatcher relayed to us that the highway patrol officer reported that he was at 125 mph. Suddenly, we saw a large cloud of dust ahead of us and our dispatcher told us the Mustang had crashed into a parked car and both suspects ran north toward a mini market.

All three of us began searching for the suspects and located one of them in a dumpster behind the market. We took him to our patrol car, searched him and placed him in the car. While we were talking to suspect #1, a very large man approached us. He had his arms around another man and said, “I think you are looking for this guy.” Suspect #2 was arrested and was placed in the highway patrol car.

The doctor at the hospital finished his examination and cleared them for booking. He then told us that we were very lucky because one of the suspects had a blood alcohol content of .24 and the driver was a .34 and was blind in his right eye. They were booked for felony evading, DUI, robbery, possession of stolen property, hit and run and felony assault. We then returned to the solitude of our regular assignment and finished our shift.

- JO

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