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Cop Tales: Pay attention or pay the price

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.

Pay attention

One night while working the graveyard shift as an officer with the highway patrol, my partner and I responded to a fatal accident on the freeway. A pedestrian was struck in the fast lane while trying to run across all three lanes of traffic. As we pulled up, we noticed another highway patrol unit had already set up a flare pattern which blocked off the center divider and the fast lane. One of the officers was on his knees giving CPR to the pedestrian.

All of a sudden, a vehicle drove right through the flare pattern and drove right toward the officer. The officer thrust himself backward as the vehicle drove right over the pedestrian’s body. The vehicle missed the officer by inches. The officer was shocked. The driver stopped her car and ran back to the officer. She just continued to repeat that she was sorry. The officer, who was still shocked, replied, “Stay away from me, Lady. Just stay away from me.”

As it turned out, the coroner’s office ruled that the pedestrian was killed by the first vehicle, so she was not charged with any type of homicide. It took awhile for the officer to get over the incident. You always have to be careful out there on the freeways, even inside road closures.

- BS

Will you charge them this time?

In 1977, dispatch broadcast a description of a vehicle that was wanted for the theft of gasoline. A highway patrol graveyard unit located and stopped the vehicle. An investigation of the vehicle and occupants led to the arrest of four people for auto theft. The vehicle, a Mercury, was stolen from the city, which was a few counties away. Due to the distance from the area and cost of transporting, the district attorney declined to file charges, and the suspects were released from jail. The thieves found the lack of action to prosecute by the authorities very encouraging.

The thieves later broke into the tow yard where the vehicle was impounded and placed a license plate from a different vehicle on it. They fled in the Mercury and drove 200 miles south to where I worked. They fueled up the vehicle at a gas station and left without paying. A broadcast for fuel theft went out to officers in the area. I located the vehicle going south on the freeway.

With the assistance of other highway patrolmen, I made a stop on the vehicle. A further check of the vehicle determined that it had been stolen and recovered earlier that morning in the other area. Neither of the occupants possessed a driver's license, however, one person had a booking slip from jail for his earlier arrest by the highway patrol. All four suspects were arrested and booked for auto theft and additional charges. The suspects were once again transported back to the original city where they stole the vehicle both times. They were finally prosecuted by that same district attorney’s office.

- BC

Don’t touch that door

I am a beat cop with a large Midwest city police department. I am currently assigned to a district on the southside that covers a very dangerous area. My very first call out of the academy in my new district was a domestic disturbance early in the morning. The caller stated that her boyfriend smeared human waste all over her front door, then beat her. My Field Training Officer and I acknowledged the call and responded. On the way over, my FTO said, "This is your first call as a police officer. I want to see how you handle the job. If you get stuck, I'll be there to help you out, but you're going to be the business officer."

Upon arrival, my partner and I found the apartment and noticed dried human waste on the white front door of the caller's apartment. I advised dispatch to call the reporting party and tell her to meet us out front since I did not want to knock on the door for obvious reasons. The caller went out the backdoor and met us in front. She advised she did not need medical attention. She also advised that the suspect fled.

When I asked her what happened, she advised she told him she no longer had feelings for him and he attempted to blow up her car. She stated he continued to stop at her house and he kept calling her. He had also been physically abusive toward her. She also advised that he posted several videos of her on an over-21 website. I obtained his identifying information and completed the report.

I originally charged him with damage to the door, but my FTO advised that since the door wasn’t really damaged, I should just charge him with the other violations. I gave the victim all the pamphlets and told her where she could receive counseling. No one should ever have to put up with that type of abuse. That was my very first call ever as a beat cop. It was 10 minutes after my first roll call.

- KC

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