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.


One early morning when I was a Highway Patrol Commander, I was driving my unmarked car through a neighborhood when I observed a red Mitsubishi 3000 sports car drive by me in the opposite direction. When the driver looked in my vehicle and saw me in uniform, his eyes bugged out. All I did was make a U-Turn to follow the vehicle and he panicked. He accelerated away at high speeds. I chased after him and advised dispatch I needed a marked “black and white” patrol vehicle to assist with the pursuit. I chased the vehicle for a few miles, then he drove into an orchard. I was able to follow him. He eventually stopped the car and took off on foot across the orchard rows. I got on the loudspeaker of my car and told him to stop. He didn’t pay any attention to me. He just kept running away. I then told him if he didn’t stop, I was going to release the K-9. I then repeated, “OK, I am letting him go now and I will not call him off once he catches you.” In a panic, he turned around while in a full stride to see if the dog was running after him. As he did that, he lost his balance and fell head over heels and landed on his face. I ran up to him and made the arrest. Of course, I never really had a dog.

It turns out he had just carjacked the vehicle at gunpoint earlier that morning. When I returned to the office, the officers asked me how I was able to find him so quickly. I just smiled and winked. The truth is, I was not in my car when the broadcast was put out. I had no idea the vehicle was stolen when I made the U-Turn on it. I was just suspicious of his reactions, but they didn’t need to know that.



One early morning while working graveyards, my partner and I made a speed stop on the freeway. As we were finishing up, a man swerved in behind us, ran up and said, "A guy just threw a beer bottle at my head from another car." I asked him if he could identify the suspect. He replied, “Yes, there they are,” as he pointed to a passing yellow Volkswagen.

My partner and I jumped in our patrol car, caught up to the VW and made a traffic stop. The victim followed us and pulled in behind us. He then identified the right, front passenger as the beer throwing culprit. I directed the suspect to exit the vehicle and asked him if he threw the bottle at the victim. I could smell the odor of alcohol on his breath. He advised he did throw the bottle at the man. When I asked him why he threw it at him, he replied, “Because I felt like it. He was staring at us and it pissed me off.”

The driver then stepped out of the VW and demanded to know what we were doing with his passenger. He demanded that we release him. My partner and I could see that driver was not steady while walking, so we conducted some field sobriety tests. It turns out, we arrested him for Driving Under the Influence. I guess he could thank his beer pitching buddy for that arrest.

— DH


Several years ago, while working for the Highway Patrol, I responded to a “Shots Fired, Officer Needs Help” call. I arrived within a couple minutes to see two officers on the ground with a man. The man had been shot and the officers were tending to his gunshot wounds with their medical kits.

The man was depressed due to experiencing several problems in his life and decided to commit “Suicide by Cop.” He waited near an intersection frequented by officers (the station was just down the street) in order to confront them and have them kill him. When he happened upon a couple of officers, he approached them, pulled out a gun, and pointed it at them. In fear of their lives and the lives of others, the officers shot the man. Once he was down, they immediately tried to help him.

I ran up and knelt down next to him to assist in rendering medical aid. The man grabbed my right hand and squeezed it as he lied on his back in immense pain. He locked eyes with mine and said, “I don’t want to die anymore, I am so sorry.” He continued to apologize for what he did and said it was a mistake. I saw the fear and panic in his eyes and heard it in his voice. He continued to beg me to not let him die. All I could do was hold his hand and reassure him that we were doing everything we could and the ambulance would be there any moment. I told him he would be OK, even though I didn’t think he would make it. He may have caused this situation, but it still broke my heart.

The ambulance arrived, loaded him up and left. Sadly, he didn’t even make it to the hospital. His actions may have permanently taken away HIS pain, but the pain didn’t go away. His family, the officers and all the first responders will have to live with it.

If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, please reach out for help. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 24-hours a day at 1-800-273-8255.

— RS

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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