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.


As a Highway Patrol Commander, I often responded to fatal accidents and too many times I've responded to family homes to give the death notifications. On one such occasion, an 18-year-old boy was killed in an accident. The investigating officer and I responded to his house to notify his parents of the tragic news. When we arrived, we learned they had just moved into the community and still had unpacked boxes. Of course, they were so upset they could hardly speak.

We asked them if they belonged to a church and if they knew a priest in the area. They related they had not located one yet. I asked if they had a phone book so we could look up the local church (since we couldn’t Google it back then). They said they didn’t have one. The officer and I helped them look through closets and drawers for a phone book, but could not find one. The officer then walked out the front door and within a couple minutes walked in with a plastic bag in his hand and handed it to me. I asked him, “What is this?” He smiled and said, “A phone book.” He then told me that just as he walked out the front door, a vehicle drove through the neighborhood delivering new phone books to all the residents. We just looked at each other with amazement. -BS and FO.


When I was a city police officer, I was dispatched to a house to make a “welfare check.” When I arrived, I located a man who hung himself in the garage. He committed the act while his wife was at work and the children were at school. We were able to contact his wife, and we had to tell her the tragic news when she got home. The wife said he was an unemployed aerospace worker, who had been out of work for nearly a year. She told us that he had been very depressed about it, and she worried about him, but she had no idea that he would ever commit suicide.

As the wife entered the house, I noticed she was holding her mail. As she put the mail down, she noticed a letter from his last aerospace employer, so she opened it. She almost went into shock as she sat motionless. I took the letter from her and read it. It started out with “Congratulations, we are pleased to inform you that we are now able to offer you your job back.” We both must’ve looked like we were in shock after reading that letter. -BB


In 1962, I was on my way home from a long shift around midnight on my Highway Patrol motorcycle when I saw a woman jump from the driver's side of a slow-moving car going in the opposite direction. She was waving at me and shouting something. I stopped and she ran up and told me that the man in the car across the street was kidnapping her. I could see a man seated in the passenger side. The dome light was on so I could see him shaking his head with a disgusted look on his face. My motorcycle was a "kick-start" older Harley Davidson equipped with a tube radio which could not be transmitted unless the motor was running or the battery would go dead in a matter of minutes. I decided to make sure I had a genuine emergency before I called for backup.

When I approached the passenger's door, I had the man get out with his hands where I could see them and patted him down for any weapons. The woman was screaming that he had a gun. He did not have a gun on him at that time, however. He told me that the woman was his girlfriend and that they were having an argument. The woman said he was lying, that she did not know him and that he had jumped in her car when she stopped at a stop sign.

I had the man move away from the car so that I could look inside and search under the seat. When I felt under the seat, sure enough, there was a revolver. I turned toward the man just in time to see him rounding the front of the car and running across the road toward a brick yard. I took off after him shouting that I would shoot if he did not stop. I gained on him until I was about 3 feet behind him, but could not close the distance. I drew my pistol and immediately discharged a round into the roadway as a warning shot. By that time, we were into the brick yard which was not lighted and I still could not catch him. I knew I could not holster my weapon while running and I was getting winded. Running in motorcycle boots is not easy or recommended. In frustration, I hit him as hard as I could with the barrel of my gun and he dropped to the ground. I was so close that I tripped over him and my gun flew out of my hand and into the darkness.

I handcuffed him while he was still dazed and held him on the ground face down while I felt in the darkness for my gun. I found it just as he started struggling and trying to get to his feet. We walked back to my motor and I was trying to get it started when I heard sirens and the woman came across the road and said that she had flagged a car down and they had gone to a phone to call for help. It was later learned that the gun was stolen and the man was on parole for armed robbery. He also had a hard head. When I was cleaning my gun, I observed that the ejection rod along the barrel was bent. I was very lucky that night. I made several mistakes, and yet I was still successful in taking a serious felon into custody. -RS

Brian Smith served four years in the United States 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 Brian at

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