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.

On my first day as a commander of a Highway Patrol office, I responded to a reported serious accident. When I arrived, I saw debris everywhere with a few cars scattered around.

I exited my vehicle and started to approach the officers when I came upon a baby sleeping in his car seat in the center divider. I could not believe they would leave a baby all alone in the center divider.

I called an officer over and asked why would we not be protecting the baby and who would leave a baby alone in the center divider.

He looked at me and said, “Captain, the baby is dead.”

He then showed me how the back of the baby’s head was missing. I was shocked to see it. I then advised him to at least cover the baby with a body blanket. Apparently, the car seat was not securely fastened in its base and when the car crashed, the seat flew out of the vehicle. The baby’s head skipped along the asphalt.

I was told the mother who was driving was taken to the hospital with injuries along with her young daughter, but her 12-year-old son and infant were killed in the accident.

I then went to the hospital to talk to the mother.

When I arrived, a priest was just walking out. I remember thinking how relieved I was that he made the death notifications to her.

When I started to talk to her, I realized she didn’t know anything about the deaths. Apparently, the priest was just visiting someone in the next bed.

I can’t even tell you how I felt telling her that her son and infant were killed in the crash. My stomach feels the same way now typing this as it did that day.

— B.S.

LOOK UNDER THERE

One day while working the freeway beat, I pulled behind a car parked on the dirt shoulder. Two men and a woman were outside the right side of the vehicle, throwing dirt on smoke that was on the RF floorboard.

It was quickly apparent they were not glad to see me. They told me they had it fixed and were going to be on their way.

As they pulled away, I ran a vehicle check and dispatch advised the vehicle was wanted for armed robbery. I asked the dispatcher for a backup unit and proceeded after the vehicle.

However, the vehicle quickly pulled back onto the shoulder, where the three of them jumped out and again threw dirt into the car.

I pulled up behind them again and offered help with water. They thanked me and got back in the car to leave. I told them to wait while I checked something. I got down, looked under their car and advised them they had a bad problem that would prevent them from going much farther.

All three got out and bent down to see the problem. I advised them that in order to see what I was talking about, they would have to get lower. I was really surprised when they all got down on their stomachs to look under the car.

I stood up, took out my gun and advised them to look up at me. I told them not to move because I had been advised they were wanted for robbery, were armed and dangerous and that I was alone and worried about them having a weapon.

Shortly thereafter, two Highway Patrol units arrived (including my shift sergeant) and the three subjects were arrested and handcuffed.

I had to laugh to myself when I heard one of the men say to the other two, "I can't believe we were taken down by a bulls----ing hillbilly cop in Bakersfield."

Even my sergeant laughed and shook his head when I told him what happened. It is still hard for me to believe they allowed me to put them in that position which allowed me to control the scene until assistance arrived.

— J.B.

NEVER ASSUME

On a sunny, quiet Sunday morning while I was on patrol, I drove by an elderly woman, sitting on a bench at a bus stop. As I approached closer, I surprisingly noticed she was in her bathrobe and clutching a large purse.

I made a U-turn and as I parked alongside the curb, she began waving and asking about the ship. I parked and walked up to her and again she asked me if I knew what time the ship would arrive.

I asked her about the ship, and she replied, “The Aramco, you know, the Aramco Ship.” I asked what her name was, and she insistently kept asking the ship’s arrival time.

At this time, I asked if she lived nearby and she stated she did, just a few blocks away. I asked if her husband was at home and she replied, “He’s on the ship, don’t you understand?”

I was starting to get concerned. When I asked her why she was wearing her bathrobe and house slippers, she stated she was running late and didn’t want to miss her husband’s arrival.

Eventually, I convinced her to let me take her home and I would help her with the situation. I seated her in my front passenger seat, buckled her in and proceeded to drive in the direction she was providing.

As we slowly drove around the neighborhood, she couldn’t find her house and became more worried she was lost.

At one time, I pointed to a house and asked if it was hers. She replied, “Heavens no, there’s a Cadillac in the driveway.”

Fortunately, my dispatcher informed me of a call just received from the daughter of my elderly passenger and provided the address.

As I turned the corner onto her street, she unbuckled her seatbelt, and began clawing and scratching me. She then began to hit me with her fist and yelling for me to stop.

By now, she had ripped my uniform pocket and commenced to grab the microphone to my radio. I was able to drive to her residence where I was met by her daughter.

With the help from her daughter, we were able to calm her down and exit the vehicle. While everyone was standing on the sidewalk, her daughter explained that the woman’s husband had recently died, and she had not been “normal” since the funeral.

As we walked up to her front door, the elderly woman repeatedly shouted she just wanted to die. The daughter then asked her mother if she had her husband’s gun.

At this time, the elderly woman attempted to retrieve the weapon from her purse. She dropped her purse and I removed a fully loaded .38 revolver from the purse.

Not only did I not “pat down” the woman, I even allowed her to enter my vehicle with the purse unchecked. She had a loaded handgun in her purse the entire time.

My intentions were good that Sunday morning, but I ignored my safety skills. It sure taught me to never assume anything again.

— H.U.

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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