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COP TALES: The burglars left a horrible mess

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.

The burglars left a horrible mess

Early in my career with the Sheriff’s Office, I had been assigned to the jail. Later, I became best friends with a deputy who had been a Vietnam combat veteran with the Marine Corps. He had a gruff personality, but also had a heart of gold. Without a doubt, he had one of the funniest senses of humor and could remember every joke he had ever heard. He would often embarrass coworkers with his demeanor toward citizens, but was fair and compassionate toward victims and suspects alike.

My friend had been assigned to a substation and I decided to put some patrol time in with him. It was good working with him again. We received a call of a residential burglary and responded to the victim’s house. When the resident opened the front door, my partner and I could not believe the mess in the living room. There were dirty little kids on the floor and it was obvious that the burglars had opened all the dresser doors, thrown everything on the floor and generally made a horrible mess of the living room. It was filthy.

My partner then exclaimed, “Wow, the burglars made a mess of the place.” The owner said, “No, the crooks didn’t enter the house, they broke into the garage in the back.” My partner, without skipping a beat retorted, “Well clean this up or I’ll have to report you to Child Protective Services.” Later while we were inspecting the garage for evidence, we heard the vacuum cleaner running inside and we both looked at each other with sheepish looks on our faces.

Tragically, a few years later, my friend was killed by a fleeing felony suspect who purposely rammed his car into the deputy’s patrol car. The suspect lived, the deputy didn’t. He left behind a wonderful wife and little boy. This article is dedicated to you, my friend. I think of you often.

- MH

My grandfather

I recently visited my grandfather, 92, and interviewed him about his career as a county boat patrol supervisor, where he worked until he retired at age 77. I am currently a highway patrol dispatcher. My grandfather's first career was with Chrysler Motors for 30 years. His second career of 25 years was as a boat patrol supervisor for a county in Northern California. My grandfather said as a lifetime boater, “I love being on the water. That’s what brought me to this job in the first place." He said a big part of his job was rescuing boaters who suddenly found themselves adrift with an inoperable motor, and towing them back to shore.

When he was promoted to head of the boat patrol unit for the county, he became responsible for six other lakes and oversaw ten other boat patrolmen. His first lake assignment was as a patrolman on a lake that was approximately 15 miles long and six miles wide. It was popular for boating, swimming, jet skiing and kayaking. As a boat patrolman, his responsibility was to enforce the operation of all watercraft.

As my grandfather told me, “One of my most difficult assignments was dealing with a drowning. My duties included assisting endangered swimmers, investigating boat accidents, and even airplane crashes that fell out the air and ended up in lakes. I responded to a fair share of drownings.

"I recall a boat accident that involved two couples racing across the lake at night. They crashed into one of the islands that was exposed above the surface, killing two of the occupants. It was a horrific accident. Another type of accident that I was involved in helping with was the investigation of a small private airplane that crashed into one of the lakes. I was the first one to respond to the incident. My duties were to supervise the search for survivors, secure the scene, and remove the plane that was submerged in the lake. I also oversaw the recovery of the four dead occupants. The FAA was the primary investigating agency and determined the plane lost power during wind shift and crashed into the lake."

Lake patrol is what it’s all a(boat).

- TC, RB

Never get in a stranger’s car

When I worked partners with my highway patrol academy classmate in a large city, we used to arrest a lot of drunken drivers. We only had about four months on the job. One night, we had already made two DUI arrests and we thought it would be good to make a final run up the Pasadena Freeway, which was the first freeway ever built in California. There were no shoulders and very limited pullouts on that freeway. As we went south, we saw a car in one of the pullouts, but also saw a vehicle a little ahead of us weaving considerably.

We decided the greatest hazard was the potential DUI and went after that vehicle while calling dispatch to let them know there was a disabled vehicle in the pullout. Dispatch responded that they had just taken a call from a female from that call box that said her car was broken down. The dispatcher told her to stand by and they would send a patrol unit to assist her. However, while the dispatcher was talking to her, she advised that someone had just stopped by and offered her a ride. The dispatcher told her not to get in the car and wait for an officer.

As we continued behind the erratic vehicle, it didn’t take long for us to figure out that he would be our third DUI of the night. We put on all the lights to stop him, but the driver had other ideas. He continued at about 35 mph down the freeway, through the downtown area, took an off ramp and stopped in a closed gas station parking lot. When he stopped the car, a female passenger popped up from the passenger seat.

All of a sudden, the passenger door flew open and a female with a bloody face ran back toward us. As she ran back, my partner drew his weapon and started ordering the driver out of the vehicle. The female ran to me. I wanted to give her a hug and tell her everything was OK, but I had to tell her to get in the back of our patrol car while I assisted with the felony stop. We took him into custody without further incident, and he was charged with kidnapping, attempted rape, and other charges.

As it turned out, the man we arrested was the driver who stopped at the disabled vehicle that we just observed on the right shoulder and offered to give her a ride. She got in his vehicle even though our dispatcher advised her not to get into anyone else’s vehicle. We must have just missed him picking her up by mere seconds. The young lady suffered several punches to her face and significant trauma, but as far as I know she got through it. Several months later when my partner and I went to court on that case, we learned that while our defendant was released on bail, he tried to rob a bank. Needless to say, there was ample security in that courtroom.

- DG

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