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COP TALES: One of the worst experiences

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.

One of the worst experiences

One time when I was working for the highway patrol, we had a couple of days when it rained nonstop. On one of the mornings, I received a call advising that two officers from another highway patrol office were working graveyards when the bridge they were about to cross was washed out. The vehicle plummeted below and was completely buried by the raging water and sand.

Since I was a peer support officer, the local sheriff’s department helicopter flew me to the scene. I’ll never forget the depressing mood as everyone, including our commissioner, stood in the rain all day waiting for the search and rescue team to locate the vehicle. Once they located it, it took so many more hours to remove the officers’ bodies from the vehicle. Even though the families knew hours earlier that the officers had to be deceased, we still had to go to their houses and make the official notification. It was still so difficult to tell them.

We made a procession and escorted the officers’ bodies to a funeral home where I sat alone with them in the basement for hours until I was relieved by another officer. Of all the difficult experiences I had in my career, that was one of the hardest and I still picture them to this day. I know everyone was scarred that day and night.

- BS

A big hug

My pilot and I were working for the highway patrol when we received a first light call out for an injured party in the meadow of a national park. A woman was with her husband and her parents on a packhorse trip when her horse was spooked and reared up. She slid off the back of her horse, and tried to break her fall with both hands. The fall severely broke both of her forearms with angulated fractures. Unfortunately for her, it was late in the day and a helicopter rescue was not possible after dark. To get her out by horseback was at least a two-day ride.

My partner and I arrived at first light and landed near the campsite of the victim. As I exited the helicopter and headed toward them, the victim’s father ran up to me, and hugged me with tears in his eyes. He was so happy to see us there to help his “little girl” who was a grown woman. I treated her injuries and gave her pain medication before we flew her to a hospital. That was the first time I had been hugged by a true cowboy in tears. There is nothing like a father’s love.


A blunt answer

While working for a major Midwest city police department, we responded to assist the state police with a rollover accident on the expressway. We had just cleared the scene when a red Dodge Charger blew a red light and parked directly in front of our squad car. My partner and I both put our hands on our weapons and asked the individual what he was thinking running a red light in front of the police. The frantic driver got out of his vehicle and said, in a very agitated voice, that there was a rollover crash and a body in the middle of the street. I assured the driver that we were just at that rollover on 85th Street and it was cleared up.

He replied, "No bro, check out 95th Street, there's a body." I then turned on my lights and raced south down the ramp to the expressway, passing the previous rollover to possibly find another one just blocks away. We saw a tow truck racing with his yellow lights on, but no emergency vehicles. We told dispatch our location and where we were going. Upon arrival we found a black luxury vehicle rolled over on its roof and a female lying on the side of the road unresponsive, while her boyfriend attempted to give her CPR.

We notified dispatch that we had a rollover with multiple injuries. As soon as I stepped out of our patrol vehicle, an off-duty security guard told us that he witnessed the whole thing. He related that the male driver was traveling northbound at 120 mph, while weaving in and out of traffic before side-swiping another vehicle and rolling over. His female occupant was ejected from the vehicle.

A nurse, who just finished her shift at the hospital, stopped to help the woman. While she was rendering aid to the woman, the nurse was struck by a passing car.

As the patrol unit on scene, we rendered aid, gathered witness information, ensured there were no additional victims, and turned everything over to the state police.

When the fire department arrived, the male driver asked if his girlfriend was going to make it. The paramedic then asked him, “Were you the driver?” When the male driver replied by shaking his head yes, the medic told him, “Negative, you killed her." The male driver then became enraged and had to be restrained by several officers.

- KC

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