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.

Not a good last day

I was working the graveyard shift as a sergeant for the highway patrol on my last day in the big city before I was transferring to a desert area of the state. I only had a couple of hours left when we received a call of an accident on the freeway. When I arrived, I observed a vehicle that was fully engulfed in flames. The vehicle appeared to have been speeding, lost control and the front left wheel jumped up onto the guardrail. It then slid down the rail into a bridge abutment and burst into flames.

I approached the vehicle and saw a man who was charred. His fingers were still in the position of trying to pry the window open. The right front passenger was killed by the flames as well. It was a horrific sight, especially when I imagined their last moments of life.

When the fire was extinguished, I looked in the hatchback area and it took awhile for me to figure out that there was a third person in the rear section of the vehicle. Apparently, he tried to escape the vehicle by attempting to get out through the hatchback door. Unfortunately, he was unsuccessful as well. It wasn’t a good way to spend my last day there.

- BS

So young

In the spring of 2012, I was working as a city police officer when I received a call a couple of hours before the end of my graveyard shift. They advised there was a teenage boy having difficulties breathing. When I arrived, the mother directed me to the upstairs bedroom where her 13-year-old son was lying in bed, gasping for air.

That poor boy was so frail looking. He was just skin and bones. As I moved toward him to get him off the bed, and to prepare for CPR, his mother told me he had been diagnosed with lung cancer a little less than a year ago. At the same time, I noticed a photo of a healthy, strong, young boy, wearing BMX gear on his bike. I later learned from his mother that the photo was taken a few months before his diagnosis.

I heard the fire/paramedics arrive and they entered the room. The room was too small to provide medical assistance on him, so the medic grabbed his legs and I grabbed him under his shoulders. We took him out of the room and down the stairs, which were right outside his bedroom door.

As we were going down the stairs, the boy’s head rotated to the left onto my left arm and he exhaled with a gurgling sound. The young boy had exhaled his last breath and died in my arms. To this day, I still have a difficult time understanding how this young boy developed lung cancer and died less than a year later. I still think about him from time to time.

- JG

Not even for your granddaughter?

We see a lot of incidents as police officers that we never forget. In 1971, I handled a tragic accident where a teenage girl was killed. We were at the scene for about an hour when we heard a weak cry coming from her vehicle. We looked closer and located a 6-month-old baby girl crammed under the dashboard. She had major injuries. I followed the ambulance to the hospital and the deceased teenager’s parents met us there. Incredibly, they refused to authorize the baby’s surgery because they were angry at their daughter for having a baby out of wedlock. They even refused to take custody of the child.

I visited the hospital for a few days after that, but the little girl was taken away by the child welfare agency. I was never able to find out what happened to her. Even though it was 50 years ago, I remember it like it was yesterday.

- DC

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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