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.
When I was the commander of a Highway Patrol office, I was also teaching at the local community college. In one of my classes, I had a student named Candice. She was the smartest person in the class.
Her boyfriend was also a student in that same class. At the end of every class I would give out two test questions and the answers to encourage students to stay to the very end of class. Candace always got an A on every exam.
One night, she asked me if she could leave early due to a family commitment. I told her it was no problem.
Towards the end of the class, she started to walk out of the room. I called out to her before she left.
“Candice, you know you won’t get the test answers tonight,” I said.
She smiled and said, “You know I know all the answers.”
I replied, “I know”.
A few days later, I was notified that our units were working a fatal accident. I responded to the location and observed the badly damaged vehicle and a body blanket over someone.
I asked the officer about the accident. He advised a young woman drifted off the roadway, over-corrected and swerved back into the opposing lane where she was struck by a large vehicle. She was killed on impact.
He then handed me her driver’s license. The name was the same as Candice.
My stomach dropped. I reached down, lifted the blanket and tears came to my eyes as I realized it was my Candice.
I then saw her cell phone which kept ringing over and over. I looked at the screen and the calls were from “Mom.”
I told the coroner on site that I had to make the death notification myself.
As I pulled into their parking area, her boyfriend (my other student) was pacing back and forth outside.
As I started to get out of the car, he said, “Mr. S., what are you doing here?”
I couldn’t speak and he said, “No.”
I broke down and said, “I’m sorry,” as I reached out to hug him.
He started to punch me over and over in the chest as he yelled, “No.” I just tried to hold him close to me.
It didn’t end there. I then had to go inside and tell her parents. I’ll never forget her or that day.
But, for the grace of God
A few days before Christmas, my department received a complaint of a house across from a high school that was selling drugs.
Because of the location, it became a top priority. After a few days of surveillance and watching a lot of foot traffic to and from the residence, I sent a confidential informant (CI) to the house.
The CI returned shortly afterwards with a small quantity of rock (cocaine) purchased at the residence and confirmed a man and woman were selling small amounts of rock and marijuana. The CI said he also saw more rocks bagged up on the table ready to sell.
Due to concerns about the location and potential to sell to students when they returned from vacation, we decided to go ahead and obtain a telephonic search warrant.
During the questioning of the CI for probable cause for the warrant, I asked him if he had seen any guns. The CI said no, but he could hear a pit bull in the back yard.
The team had served numerous warrants in the past, so everyone knew their responsibilities. Knock and notice... entry... and everyone would handle their assigned task.
Everyone was reminded to control their adrenaline and to not get tunnel vision.
Upon entry, the husband/wife identified by the CI were detained in the living room with many individual small plastic bags of rock in plain view on the coffee table. The house was a pig pen with trash, dog droppings and clothes everywhere.
I also noticed there was no Christmas tree or decorations anywhere in the house.
As I entered a bedroom, I saw a large pile of clothes on a mattress. I saw the pile shift and heard a low “growling” sound.
I remembered what the CI told me about a pit bull. I took a short breath, aimed, and felt the tension in my wrist and hand to “squeeze off” a necessary shot.
Just then, in a split second, a small infant boy’s head appeared from under the pile. He wasn’t wearing a shirt, he had a dirty face and he had snot running down from his nose, but he had a smile on his face.
Every Christmas since that day, after my family puts up the tree and decorations, I take a moment of “down time” and vividly think about that day and what could have happened in the blink of an eye, but for the grace of God....
That occurred almost 30 years ago, and I still have flash-backs every Christmas.
Don’t touch that button
In the late 1950s, Chrysler Motors decided that a push button gear shift was the way to go and the buttons were mounted on the dash.
One hot evening, I was called to an accident on a side street at the shopping mall. When I arrived, there was a new Plymouth sedan partially inside the side wall of a drug store.
There was also a barber shop across the street with broken glass on the sidewalk.
When I asked who was driving the car, I was told that no one was driving at the time of the accident. What transpired when all was said and done is this:
A man and his wife had driven their brand-new car to the drugstore and the man went into the store while the woman remained in the front passenger seat.
The car was angle parked on the street. Since it was hot, the air conditioner was left on and the engine left running.
After a few minutes, the woman decided that the air needed to be turned to a higher setting so she reached across and pushed what she thought was the control for the air conditioner.
She had in reality pushed the button to put the car into gear and it started to back into the street. She tried to stop the car by hitting the brake with her left foot, but she hit the accelerator instead.
The car lunged across the street and smashed into the barber shop. She then pushed another button hoping to turn the engine off and the car lunged forward. She again tried to use the brake and again depressed the accelerator. The car then sped across the street and into the side wall of the drug store.
A man who had witnessed the entire series of events, ran over to the car, opened the driver's door and turned off the ignition. No one was hurt in the accident.
When interviewed, the woman "passenger/driver" told me that she knew what she had done wrong.
She said that she now knew that she should have pushed "that button" rather than the one she had pushed and pointed to the radio controls (still the wrong ones). Her husband thought that no button pushing was a better idea.
Chrysler discontinued the push button transmission soon after.