Editor's Note: Cop Tales are true stories as told by law enforcement officers from all over the country. The stories are told in the first person.

I was involved in a fatal shooting and took a couple days off. When I returned to duty, I asked if I could work the day shift for a while instead of nights since day shift is usually quieter. On my first day back to work on a Sunday morning, I sat and had coffee with my beat partners and tried to settle in slowly. I finally left the restaurant, went over the overcrossing and observed a vehicle illegally drive across the center divider. I figured that would be an easy stop. He pulled to the right shoulder. As I approached the driver’s door, I observed broken glass along the window ledge. I figured it was a stolen car.

As it turned out, the driver had just murdered his girlfriend, put her body in the house, set it on fire and ran out. As he was about leave, he realized he locked his keys in the car, so he broke the window. He had to face first degree murder charges. That was my first stop back.


The two rapist, car thieves

As an officer, I was involved in two shootings. My nightmares were so horrific, and I had difficulties with my stomach and sleeping, so I took a few months off. I knew I didn't want to retire, but I couldn't go back right away. When I finally did return, I asked if I could go patrol the east side of town and just enforce commercial vehicles. While performing those tasks, dispatch advised to ‘Be On the Lookout’ (BOL) for a stolen, convertible Mustang containing two alleged male rapists. Apparently, they raped a woman south of Stockton, then raped another woman near Tulare and stole her Mustang. I figured they were heading to Los Angeles, so I headed west and pulled in the center divider of SR-99. Just as I was backing into a spot in the center divider, I observed the Mustang pass my location.

I advised dispatch and went after them. Other vehicles joined the pursuit and I became the secondary unit so a clearly marked black and white state patrol car could take the primary. I also requested the local city police department K-9 officer to stay in the pursuit in case they took off on foot. The vehicle eventually crashed on the freeway in a cloud of dust. The officers were able to catch the passenger, but the driver ran into a tall cornfield. The K-9 officer and I ran after him. We caught him in the field. Two in custody. That was my first day back after my second shooting.


 'I’m not a bad man'

We received a call one evening of a guy with a gun in one of our bars. I had a reserve officer with me as we walked into the bar. The bartender nodded towards a guy sitting at the bar. He was a small Spanish-speaking guy who was no more than 5 foot, 5 inches tall. I walked up behind him and put my right hand on his right shoulder so he could see my badge.

I started to pat him down and in his left front waistband, I felt the butt of what turned out to be a 9mm S&W auto. As I did that, he tried to grab it. I was trying to control the gun as he was trying to pull it out. In desperation, I grabbed him by his hair and slammed his face into the bar which stunned him. That allowed me to take control of his weapon.

We took him into custody and got clearance from the hospital to book him into jail. On the entire trip to the jail, he just continued to cry and told me in Spanish that he was not a bad man. Apparently, he was released from custody on his own recognizance after a few hours.

A couple of weeks later, one of our detectives called me and asked if I remembered the guy with the 9mm I had popped last month. He then told me that they just arrested the same guy for murder because he stabbed a guy to death. I think that guy lied to me; he was a bad man.


That’s not them

My partner and I were always getting involved in cases that caused our sergeant to do extra paperwork, so he always tried to keep us out of the high crime beats. One night when we were leaving the jail after booking someone, dispatch advised everyone of a shooting that had just occurred. A deputy had been shot at and the deputies were setting up a perimeter and needed our help. We immediately went to the command post where the sheriff sergeant advised that the wanted suspects were a white male adult and a black male adult. He also said he needed one of our units to set up on one of the main roadways. We volunteered to go to that location, but our sergeant assigned another unit and told us to just work the outside perimeter. We knew he only sent us there so we wouldn’t get involved in anything.

We no sooner reached our location when we observed a van approach our location. The driver was a black male adult and the right front passenger was a white male adult. We immediately advised dispatch and made a felony stop on the suspects. As they turned around, we observed a handgun tucked in their waistbands.

The funny thing is, they were not the suspects wanted in the deputy’s shooting. They had just robbed a liquor store at gunpoint and were unfortunate enough to take the street we were watching. Of course, our sergeant was not happy.


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 Brian at bmsmith778@gmail.com

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