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.
One sunny day while working in a mountain community, I received a call of a motorcycle down with injuries. When I arrived, I saw a motorcyclist lying in the roadway in front of an older woman’s vehicle. Her windshield was smashed and the rider was in intense pain.
The elderly woman looked at her windshield and front grill and started yelling at the rider for hitting her car. He kept repeating, “I’m sorry ma’am, I didn’t mean to.”
She continued to yell at him so I walked up to her and told her to step away.
The rider was taken by ambulance to the hospital and we handled everything at the scene. According to other motorcycle riders, the motorcycle was going around the curve and crossed over the yellow lines and drove directly into the other vehicle. The rider was thrown off, went right into her windshield and fell to the ground.
Upon closer inspection, the rider had a wrench taped to the handlebars in case he needed it. As he was riding, the tape around the wrench loosened up and the wrench slid down into the joint which prevented the handlebars from turning. When he approached the curve, he was unable to turn the handlebars.
I went to the hospital to get more information from the rider and to get the extent of his injuries. I went into the emergency room, spoke to him and told him about the wrench. He again asked me to apologize to the woman in the other vehicle. The doctor told me he was bruised up, but he would be fine.
I was about to leave the hospital when the rider’s young wife and two small children approached me in a panic to ask about his condition. I told her he was bruised up, but he would be fine.
She then let out a big sigh of relief and smiled while thanking me. Just then, the doctor walked out of the emergency room and said, “We just lost him.”
He said it to me right in front of his wife and children. I asked what he was talking about and he told us that the rider must have had internal injuries and they just lost him.
I can’t even describe the emotions that were twisting and turning in that room in all of us. I didn’t even know what to say or do. In fact, I still don’t remember anything that happened in that hospital that day after the doctor dropped that horrible news. I guess I was just in shock.
What the eyes have seen
I was assigned to a sheriff’s substation in the mid 1960s, when I received a call of a baby in distress. When I arrived at the house, I was met by the baby’s grandmother. She was babysitting since the child’s mother was attending high school.
In those days, the medical response was not that close so I knew it would take them least 30-45 minutes to get there. I made the decision to transport the grandmother and baby to the hospital in my patrol car.
The baby was still alive when we arrived, so the hospital staff went to work. Eventually, the doctor announced the baby passed away.
I then took the grandmother on that horrible drive to the high school to notify the mother. We got her out of class and walked outside of the school where I told her about the child. She just collapsed in my arms. After some time passed, I transported them both back to the grandmother’s house.
After all these years, it just reminds me of the saying, “The mind can’t forget what the eyes have seen.”
Enjoy your dinner
I was working Thanksgiving evening when my partner and I got a call of a possible structure fire at a small apartment.
My partner ran around the back and yelled for me to kick in the door because the apartment was on fire. I kicked the door in so hard that it literally took it off of its hinges. The door landed right on top of a coffee table where two families were eating their dinner.
Unfortunately, it turned out that there wasn’t really a fire. It was just steam coming off of the water heater at the back of the apartment.
The funny part is that they weren't even the least bit angry. They actually thanked me for taking swift action. I apologized and told them to send the repair bills to my police department
The baby call
Very early in my career, I was patrolling the freeways on the graveyard shift when my partner and I received a call of a baby lying in the roadway on a freeway transition route.
While we raced to the location, we commented to each other that there was no way it could be an accurate call. We did everything we could to convince ourselves that this was a bogus call and prayed we were correct.
As we approached the area, we didn’t see anything so I reached for the radio microphone to tell dispatch we were unable to locate anything and we would be back in service for the next call.
However, when I lit up the roadway with our spotlights, our hearts stopped as we saw the outline of an infant child lying on the roadway edge. With all of our emergency lights activated and the freeway traffic coming to a stop behind us, we stopped the patrol car and rushed to the baby.
As we reached the baby, we realized it was a very authentic looking doll. We were so relieved it was only a doll, but it was amazing to realize how emotionally drained one can get from a false alarm. After removing the doll, we grabbed a cup of coffee and resumed our duties.
‘It’s going to be fine; help is on the way
While working as a dispatcher for the Highway Patrol on afternoon shift, one hot summer day, I answered a callbox call. An elderly gentleman was broken down on the side of the freeway.
To say he was grumpy, angry and a bit difficult would be an understatement. During the next ten minutes, I learned he was driving from Northern California to visit his son in Southern California. He had some colorful things to say about his car, the length of the trip and his thoughts on my ability to get him some help. He had no idea where he was, other than he had been traveling for about three- and one-half hours.
Thankfully, because he was on a callbox, I knew where he was located.
I obtained his vehicle description, assured him several times that things would work out, and advised him I was sending him help. I also offered to call his son.
What most people don’t know, is that callboxes tend to “time-out” after 10 minutes and we can’t always extend the time. At the end of our conversation, I had convinced him things would be OK and I would send a tow truck and a CHP officer to help him.
I remember chuckling a little bit with a coworker after I sent him help, comparing it to helping grandparents when they get frustrated with things. It actually put a smile on my face that I was able to calm him down, and reassure him that we would take care of him.
I moved on to the next call when I heard my partner take a call from an officer about a tow truck arriving at an accident at the same call box as my elderly gentleman.
The officer then advised the accident involved a fatality. As it turned out, another driver was travelling down the freeway when she dropped her cellphone. When she reached down to pick it up, her car drifted off the side of the roadway and ran over the elderly gentleman which killed him instantly.
I remember the sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach and my last words to him were, “It’s going to be fine; help is on the way.”
To this day I can still remember exactly what I wore to work that day, the callbox number and his name.
I lost them, chief
When my twin daughters first started high school, they asked if they could go to the Friday night football game. I really didn’t want them to go, but I told them their mother and I would go with them.
When we got to the game, they wanted to hang out with their friends and asked me not to follow them around. The twins and their mother gave me a speech about how I needed to stop being a cop and that I needed to trust them. I reluctantly agreed.
I then saw one of my Highway Patrol officers at the game who knew my daughters. I asked him if he would quietly keep an eye on them without divulging the information to my wife or daughters.
Towards the end of the game, my wife and I were leaning against the fence and the twins joined us on my wife’s side.
A couple minutes later, that officer approached on my side in a panic and said, “Chief, I lost sight of your daughters. I’m not sure where they went.”
I slowly turned my head towards them as the three of them gave me a dirty look. The twins then said, “What? You had someone following us?”
I was eventually able to earn their trust again, but that officer is still stuck on graveyards.