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.

As I was packing my desk on my final day before I would report to a new office as a captain for the Highway Patrol, I was notified of a serious accident.

I responded to the scene where an SUV swerved off the freeway, rolled and came to rest on the railroad tracks. The woman driver, a solo occupant, survived the original crash, but a train came barreling around the curve before any assistance arrived and struck her vehicle.

She was killed on impact.

I couldn’t believe that she was lucky enough to survive such a serious crash, but then was killed anyway.

I spoke to the train engineer, who was very distraught. After obtaining all of his necessary information, I asked him if he wanted me to call his superiors to get him a replacement so he didn’t have to drive the train anymore. He told me he would be OK and would continue to engineer the train to his destination.

I released him and watched as he pulled away. All of a sudden, I heard the train stop further down the tracks as it went around another curve.

I then saw the engineer walking back to me. He was very upset and told me that as he went around the next curve, a homeless man jumped out in front of his train to commit suicide.

I went up to check and sure enough, the man was deceased. The engineer just kept his head down and quietly said, “You can call me that replacement now. I quit.”

It was not a good last day for me either.

— B.S.


Being a law enforcement officer is a rewarding career, but also extremely dangerous and deadly. We all know this every day when we put on the uniform.

I wore a second uniform though. It was a 100-pound explosive bomb suit. About three years into my bomb squad career for the sheriff’s department, my sergeant and I received a call that nearly killed both of us.

We were dispatched to the house of a deceased scientist who lived off the military base. This scientist invented explosive charges for required automotive items and explosives for rockets.

The electric company shut off the power to his lab on his property because they didn’t know he passed away.

Certain explosives do not do well with temperature change. They begin to change composition and can be very dangerous.

We began a three-day removal of explosives and counter charges in his lab and front yard. Every department was there, including the military, fire department and the EPA. They had to evacuate the entire housing tract.

We brought in a chemist to help identify the explosives. We had about 30 unknown chemicals, some of which crystalized and expanded in their containers. We dug a hole about 4 feet wide and 3 feet deep in a field nearby to counter charge the unknown chemicals.

We placed the chemicals in a padded explosive blanket and moved them to the field. We were unable to wear bomb suits while placing items in the hole due to vision perception.

An explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) sergeant and I were in the hole receiving the items from the other techs when I smelled smoke. Within seconds the entire hole was on fire with us standing in it.

One of the canisters must have leaked out of the bottom. I set the charge when climbing out because I didn’t want to come back to the hole.

We ran for our lives, jumped into a truck and sped off. When the explosives detonated, it caused a huge, pink circle that pulsated all the way up into the clouds. Over 1,000 calls were received due to the sound of the explosion.

When you’re fighting for your life, your body responds with an adrenaline dump, which causes the shakes for about 10 minutes after the threat has passed.

I saw one of the techs holding a bottle of water and his hand was shaking so much that the water was spilling everywhere.

I wanted to be alone, so I walked over to our bomb truck and sat inside by myself. I turned on the radio, and the song “In the Arms of an Angel” by Sarah McLachlan came on the radio.

I wept and was thankful to be alive. I will never forget that song or that day.

— B.C.


I was assigned as the sheriff’s commander of several substations in the county.

One day, a call came out that a burglary suspect was running down a street. Everyone responded to the area in search of the suspect.

We saw him run up a driveway, into an open garage, into the backyard and over the fence and get away. He was known to all the personnel and had a unique nickname.

The next two mornings, I came to the office and the first thing I did was ask the deputies if they located the suspect yet. Each day, they told me they had not located him.

On the third morning, I just walked into the office without asking anyone. The sergeant then walked in and asked me why I didn’t ask the deputies if they located the suspect. I told him that since they didn’t catch him in the last two days, what was the point of asking?

The sergeant told me they actually caught the suspect and he was in jail. He advised the deputies were waiting for me to ask them.

Just so I didn’t disappoint them, I went back into the squad room and asked if they had located the suspect. They told me they had and he was in jail. I kind of laughed to myself and congratulated them on a job well done.

— F.W.

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 bmsmith778@gmail.com.

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