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.

WHO IS STEERING THAT THING?

Several years ago, I was a nurse at a corrections institute that was on an island. I ran the clinic there and was known to all of the inmates as being fair and compassionate. I completed my shift one evening at 10:30 p.m., and took the ferry from the island to the mainland. It was usually a routine and uneventful ride through a 600 foot deep channel. The ferry was working its way through debris from a storm the day before. It was pitch black with low visibility.

Suddenly, one of the two inmate crew members appeared in front of me and said, "the captain just collapsed." Alarmed, I ran to find the captain on the deck of the bridge, bloody and unconscious. The awful possibilities of being kidnapped mid-ocean were going through my head when I asked the inmate crewman to bring me a radio. Dutifully, he did just that. With only a stethoscope and a blood pressure cuff, I continued to administer CPR while we waited for orders.

Before I radioed the island for help, I informed the captain I was relieving him of his command. I then directed the inmate crewman to steer the boat in circles until I was given orders by the watch commander as to which destination, the island or the mainland, was the safest and quickest. I was ordered to return to the island where a relief captain, who lived on the island, would take over. While I administered CPR, I watched one inmate standing at the prow of the ship trying to direct us through the debris and darkness. In the distance, two huge cargo ships spotted our ferry with the prison’s name on the side and radioed an SOS to the Coast Guard, who radioed the island. The island staff was ready.

Another captain quickly took over the ship, and the guards who joined them on the ship allowed the two trustee crewman to stay aboard. When we finally docked, the former captain was rapidly unloaded to a waiting ambulance.

Life can be unpredictable and cruel at times, and humanity can be difficult to find within the institution of incarceration. However, on this day, it gave way to an old adage, “Love thy neighbor as thyself.”

The guards on the night shift who were waiting to board the ferry had been told of the crisis, and despite the cold and the late hour, the entire group waited for the ship to dock. They then formed a long line and stood at attention. As each inmate passed by, the guards shook each of their hands.

The captain was diagnosed with severe hypoglycemic seizures as well as a concussion from the fall. The two inmate crewmen were given a commendation from the governor of the state, and one of them, whose mother had just died, was given a compassionate early release.

Once the dust settled, the warden contacted me and burst out laughing over the fact that one of our boats had been spotted by two cargo ships steering in circles, with an unconscious captain and a nurse who had commandeered the boat driven by two inmates. I like to believe my Mom's immortal words to my sister and I still apply here. She would often stare at us hopelessly, shaking her head, saying, "Trouble follows you, doesn't it?"

— PH

A PURSE SNATCHER

I was getting towards the end of my shift on day watch, when I observed a woman getting up from the sidewalk in front of a drug store. I exited my patrol car and asked if she required any assistance. She told me that a young boy on a bicycle just stole her purse and she pointed to the direction of his flight. I looked down the street, but didn’t see a bicyclist. I entered my car to look for the suspect.

By the time I finished advising dispatch of the incident, I observed a boy who fit the description of the suspect. I was driving a Mustang and within a few seconds, I caught up to him. I pulled up beside the boy and told him to stop. He stood up and peddled his bicycle faster (Did he really think he could outrun my Pony?). I advised dispatch that I was in pursuit of a theft suspect at approximately 14 mph, which I am sure caused a few chuckles from other officers.

I managed to stay beside the suspect as he decided to turn south on a street. At that point, I crowded him pretty hard and was beside him when he turned towards me and threw the purse at me. I leaned forward and the purse wedged between the headrest and the rear window. I would not let him out of the shoulder portion of the northbound lanes as I hoped he would stop. He started to approach a parked car, so he slowed before falling off his bike so he didn’t hit the parked car. He took off running. I jumped out of my car, leaped over his bike and ran after him.

The suspect had a thirty-foot jump on me, but I was closing in as he jumped a fence. I opened the gate and ran through. I was gaining on him as he jumped another fence. Of course I opened the next gate as well and ran through it. He cleared a third fence which I had to jump over as well. As I came down I saw him go over another fence. As I jumped over that fence into a yard with a house and a garage, I looked around and could not see him. As I looked around, I noticed a small garage with the door slightly ajar. I entered the room, removed my little flashlight and began to search the interior. I glanced up and noted that there was a large opening to the ceiling. The garage had been made into a living area. I jumped onto the back of the couch and looked around. I could see a shadow moving around in the far corner. Since I did not want to crawl up there and get my uniform dirty or torn, I told the suspect the game was over and for him to come down. He refused a couple of times, but when I told him he wouldn’t like it if I came up there to get him, he came down.

A deputy advised me that he had several run-ins with the suspect in the past and that the boy lived across the street from where I caught him. Apparently, he was trying to make it to his house. While he was in the backseat of the patrol vehicle, the family tried to convince me that he was a good boy and was never in trouble, even though he was on probation for other crimes as well.

— JG

YOU MAY WANT TO SEARCH HIM

Sometimes, you have some very interesting stories that come out of small towns. One night, a party turned bad when a party-goer was stabbed in the heart with a buck knife. The victim staggered into the ambulance company’s resident post and fell to the floor.

As the paramedics were transporting the victim to the hospital, an adjoining highway patrol unit stopped the suspect vehicle south of the incident. As a highway patrolman on duty, I was sent down to pick up the suspect and return him to our county. Our department policy requires searching a prisoner when transferring custody, so I took the extra time to pat him down. Imagine my surprise when a buck knife fell out of the man's pants.

Later, the paramedics advised that the emergency room doctor didn't waste any time with the anesthetic and cracked the victim's chest open right away. The doctor sewed up the man's heart and he actually survived.

— BN

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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