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.
A few years ago, as the commander of a Highway Patrol area, I received a call from a city police department advising me they were tracking a violent felon. He already killed one person and shot a Highway Patrol officer who tried to apprehend him.
They advised the suspect was in my area and they wanted our assistance in apprehending him. We all met and discussed our operational plan. I briefed the lieutenant and sergeants and had our airplane deployed.
Before we could approach his motel room, he just happened to leave in a vehicle. Once he hit the streets, we activated our lights and siren. The suspect then accelerated away. The pursuit reached high speeds.
Then, all of a sudden, law enforcement vehicles from everywhere joined in the chase. There were even undercover cars with red “Kojak” lights on the roofs.
The patrol cars were jumping over center dividers and cutting off vehicles. Based on our policy, I knew I had to terminate our involvement in the pursuit.
I advised dispatch to tell the police department we were aborting the pursuit and they could take over as the primary agency. I advised we would keep our airplane overhead. My officers were very unhappy about having to drop out.
At one point, the suspect pulled into a trailer park and entered an elderly woman’s home. He ordered her to give him the keys to her vehicle. He then jumped in her car and took off.
Since the units did not actually follow him into the trailer park, the airplane pilot/observer advised the suspect was leaving in another vehicle. The pursuit started over again. I followed the radio traffic so I knew where the pursuit was headed and our units blocked some intersections for safety purposes.
I heard the pursuit came to an end so I headed to the termination point. I stopped in a location where I could clearly see the felony stop in progress.
The suspect jumped out of his vehicle with an AK-47 rifle and started shooting at the police immediately. The SWAT units were prepared for him and there was a barrage of bullets going back and forth. The suspect was hit several times.
As he hit the ground, he looked right into my eyes. I could tell by looking in his eyes that he was already deceased, but his body was still holding his head up. He then let out his last burst of breath and dropped his head.
I was the last one he saw on this earth.
You can’t catch me
I was working the day shift in the middle of winter and it was very cold outside. I was assigned to work the south end of the freeway.
Halfway through my shift, I received a call of a pedestrian walking down the centerline of a highway, west of the freeway. It had been raining off and on all morning, but not enough that I was in my rain gear.
As I took the off ramp, I could see a couple of cars braking westbound. There, big as life, was a man with a suitcase in his left hand walking down the middle of the roadway.
I drove onto the north shoulder next to the pedestrian and immediately recognized him. He was a frequent guest of the local jail. He was normally shining shoes or boots while serving his time for public intoxication.
He was also familiar to me because I arrested him about a year earlier for hit and run. We may not have been able to prove it was him, but he left his wallet on the front seat.
He was walking down the double yellow lines and not doing a very good job of it. I rolled down the window as it started to sprinkle and yelled. “Hey, get out of the road before you get hit.”
He then replied, “You can’t catch me. I ain’t going back to jail.”
He then started to run, well, sort of. I got out of my car, opened the back door, retrieved my raincoat, put it on, and buttoned it up while he was attempting to make his getaway.
As he began to run, he was being forced to veer to his left across the eastbound traffic lane and onto a truck parking lot due to the weight of his suitcase. I figured out where he was going to end up and walked straight south and stopped.
He was running with his head down and was slowly running in a semi-circle. When he looked up and saw me standing in his intended escape route, he just stopped and said, “Officer, you would never have caught me if I wasn’t so drunk.”
He put down his suitcase and put his hands behind his back.
I asked him when he got out of jail. He gave me his usual answer, “This morning.”
He really was a nice guy, but he had a serious drinking problem. Every time he was released from jail, he would head to his favorite watering hole and get drunk. I wonder if he is still around.
Don’t want to miss my date
I was a new sergeant when I received a call of a child not breathing. I was less than a mile away and immediately activated my lights and siren to get there in record time.
Upon arrival, I exited my patrol vehicle outside the locked gates to the apartment complex and observed a group of people standing near the secured gate.
I told the group I was responding to a child not breathing call. A female just pointed to a vehicle parked outside the gates and told me the baby was inside the car.
She didn’t act the way I thought someone in this type of situation would behave. There was no excitement, screaming, or any type of response that I normally observed in my other experiences with these types of calls.
I ran to the vehicle and found an unresponsive child strapped into a car seat. I checked for a pulse and found the child to have no pulse and not breathing.
I removed the child from the car seat and started to place the child on the ground to begin CPR. Upon visual inspection, I realized the child had been deceased for several hours.
An investigation revealed the child had been left in the care of the aunt when the baby’s mother ran off to date someone she met online.
The 2-year-old, who weighed a meager 16 pounds was physically abused and had died several hours before I ever received the call.
The aunt had driven this dead child around in the vehicle for several hours (with a live 4-year-old strapped into a car seat next to her). I’ll never forget the call. It has been seared into my brain.
Thank God the aunt went to prison.