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.

What a nice girl

When I was a young, 23-year-old California Highway Patrol officer, I was watching an intersection where motorists would drive right through the stop sign. I didn’t even have to stop people making “California Stops,” where they rolled through the stop sign, because so many people didn’t even slow down. On one occasion, I observed a vehicle drive through the intersection without even slowing down.

I made a traffic stop and told a young woman in her early twenties the reason for the stop. She was very friendly and flirtatious. I obtained her driver’s license and registration and went back to my patrol vehicle. As I was writing the citation, she stepped out of her vehicle and very nicely asked me if I was writing her a ticket. I told her I was writing a citation and that I would only be a few minutes. She then started calling me every name in the book. I don’t even think I heard language that bad in the Marine Corps.

I completed the citation and explained it to her. She repeatedly told me to X off. She then said, “I hope you get in a car chase today and crash, burn and die.” I released her and continued my patrolling. Later that day, I was in pursuit of a vehicle on the freeway at more than 100 mph. In that moment, I remembered what she said earlier. I was then hoping she didn’t have any real evil powers. Just so you know the end of the story, I didn’t crash, burn and die that day. I successfully stopped that vehicle without any problems.

- BS

You may not want to run

Once upon a time, the Highway Patrol dispatcher broadcast a report of a drive-by shooting, where the shooter peppered a residence with a .30 cal carbine. The bullets barely missed a woman holding a baby. In those days, the local ambulance service monitored our frequency, and would often show up at the scene before they were called. Of course, the Highway Patrol’s “Be On The Look-Out” caught their attention and they happened to spot the suspect vehicle trying to hide. They snitched him off accordingly.

I showed up as the felony stop was being conducted on the freeway, positioning myself behind a big bush parallel to the driver's door. The suspect couldn't see me since I was wearing my dark jacket at night. It looked like he was getting ready to run until he heard the racking of my shotgun. The "deer caught in the headlights" look on his face was priceless. He wisely submitted to the arrest. As a side note, one of those ambulance attendants eventually became a Highway Patrol officer.


It became my last day on duty

In April 2006, I was getting ready to retire from a job that I had loved for more than 26 years. I was working for the Highway Patrol as an acting sergeant, since I was on the sergeants’ promotional list, but I did not want to move my family again. I had seven days left to work, and had worked speed enforcement with the airplane earlier in the day. I was the swing shift supervisor, and was eating dinner with one of my officers and my wife, when we were advised of a pursuit that was heading our direction.

As the pursuit got closer, I realized I would have to head south, as our policy directed supervisors to be involved in pursuits, if possible. The pursuit continued north, and two of my units took over the pursuit from the adjoining Highway Patrol units. I entered the pursuit as the third unit and advised the primary unit to take out the vehicle with a PIT maneuver if he got the chance.

The unit attempted to get in position, but the vehicle sped up and was out of position. As we approached an intersection, the vehicle slowed, which allowed the unit to PIT the vehicle into a dirt field. I stopped my vehicle next to the passenger side of the suspect’s vehicle to prevent it from moving. The unit that had completed the PIT was on the driver’s side of the vehicle, and there were two additional units stopped in front of the suspect vehicle.

As we all exited our patrol cars, the vehicle attempted to get away by accelerating backward, but my push bumper prevented his vehicle from moving. He then accelerated forward, but was still not able to move. I moved to the rear of the vehicle to eliminate a crossfire situation with the other officers. The vehicle accelerated to the rear again. I was able to avoid being hit. He stopped the vehicle again. Four of us officers moved to the front of the vehicle and the driver accelerated toward us.

As the vehicle lunged forward, I fired through the windshield at the driver, as did the officer who had pitted the vehicle. The driver stopped, and slumped down in the driver’s seat. We immediately called for medics, then attempted to render first aid to the driver. As we removed him from the vehicle, he was clutching onto a crack pipe in his hand.

As this had been my second officer-involved shooting, I knew the investigation would take weeks or months to complete. When I took off my uniform that night, I realized it would be the last time I would wear it, which brought with it a lot of emotions. I retired 12 days later. A week after that, one of the sergeants who worked in my office came by my home to advise the subject had succumbed to his injuries.

A couple of months later, I was contacted by the Attorney General's office and advised that the family was suing the state, the Highway Patrol, and myself for wrongful death. I asked the attorney if he had seen the video of the shooting. When he asked, “What video?”, I told him that a news helicopter had followed the pursuit, and the shooting was clearly visible on the recording.

A few days before Christmas that year, I was contacted by the attorney who advised the video had been shown to the family, and the family’s attorneys, and the case had been dismissed. It was a nice Christmas present.


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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