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.

THANK YOU FOR THE EXPERIENCE

One year a couple weeks before Christmas, I was a commander with the Highway Patrol and had to drive to our headquarters office which was four-and-a-half hours away. I was delayed at home and wanted to get started on my trip. Just as I was about to get on the freeway, I observed a man cross the street ahead of me carrying a long box. He was walking very slowly and appeared to be crying. I decided to continue on my trip, but believe it or not, I kept getting bugged by my mother, who passed away years earlier, to stop and help him. I’m sure if I had a passenger, he would have thought I was crazy, but I actually had a conversation in my head with my mom. I told her I was in a rush and I was sure the guy was OK. She insisted I check on him.

I pulled over and asked the man if he was alright. The box he was carrying contained an artificial Christmas tree. He was very upset and stated, “I had a classic bicycle for years and I just sold it for $100, so I could buy a Christmas tree for my wife and son for Christmas since we didn’t have enough money to buy one. I just wanted my son to have a tree this year. When I took the tree home, my wife told me I had to take it back because we needed to spend the money on food instead. I just want him to have a tree.”

I immediately looked up at my Mom and thought, “Well, it looks like I’m not getting to headquarters for awhile.”

I told him to get in my car. I drove him to the store and we bought decorations for the tree and food. I then drove him to the mall and let him pick out gifts for his son and wife, then I told him to get something for himself. After picking up all the items, I dropped him off at his apartment. He was so excited and could not thank me enough. I then went to the office where we had collected large canned hams and other food items for people. When I went back to his apartment to drop off the ham and other items, I noticed his front door was open. When I looked in, he still had a huge smile on his face as he was wrapping the gifts in newspaper. He was even more excited and grateful when he saw the ham.

I know he was grateful that day, but no one was more appreciative for that experience than I. As I drove away, I looked up at my Mom and thought, “OK, you were right. Can I go to headquarters now?”

— BS

ONE OF THE GUYS

One night, when I was a young female rookie for the city police department, my training officer and I had just taken a suspect to jail. We locked our guns in the gun lockers, went in and booked our suspect. Right after we finished our booking, we got a call to a disturbance, possible fight, not far from our location. We quickly hurried out of the jail, got into our patrol car and headed to the address. As I was getting out of the car, I reached to unstrap my revolver, only to discover that I didn't have it. It was still in the gun locker at the jail. As my training officer started to walk up to a group of people that had, luckily, started to disperse as we arrived, I stage whispered to him, "I left my gun at the jail." As it turned out, he knew I forgot it and was teaching me a lesson. Apparently that wasn't the end of it.

A few days later, during our televised briefing that went out to other substations, along with our main headquarters, my sergeant called me in front of everyone to present me with something. He gave me a ball of navy blue yarn to tie onto my gun and attach to my gun belt, so I would never leave my gun behind again. I still have that ball of yarn. I knew that day, I was accepted as one of the "guys."

— LB

IT'S NEVER ROUTINE

While working for the highway patrol several years ago, I made a traffic stop on a pick-up truck. The driver exited right away and did not have any identification with him. Unbeknownst to me, he and his passenger were both convicted ex-felons in a cold-plated stolen vehicle. They were parolees at large with stolen handguns in their possession. My beat partners were a couple of miles away on another traffic stop. I had called in my stop and was going to ask one of my beat partners to back me up. However, before I could do that, the driver shot me several times with a .44 magnum. Even though I was badly wounded, I was able to return gunfire as I called in for help. They immediately fled the scene. As they drove away, they almost crashed head-on with one of my beat partners. That beat partner shot at the suspects, but they got away. Two days later, they caught the shooter and he was convicted of Attempted Murder on a Peace Officer and other charges. The suspect received seven years to life, plus 14 years, due to his long criminal record and my incident. The passenger was also sent to prison.

Prior to my shooting, I always paid attention to the Unusual Incident Reports from throughout the state and mentally told myself that if I ever became involved in a critical incident, I would react to my training. I've always had a reputation for being a stickler for officer safety. I was never critical of another officer's incident, but I looked upon it as a learning experience. As a note to other officers, never get complacent or careless, don't hesitate to call for back-up, wear your body armor and seatbelt, watch your speed, and stay up on your training.

— EM

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 bmsmith778@gmail.com.

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