My First Office Involved Shooting

As an officer with the Highway Patrol, I was only off probation by one month and I was already skilled at detecting drunk drivers. On a beautiful Sunday in May, I was working the afternoon shift and had just returned to the beat after arresting a Driving Under the Influence (DUI) driver.

I stopped by an outside phone booth and while I was on the phone, a 20-something male driver pulled up behind me and picked up the phone receiver two phones down from mine. I could immediately smell alcohol on his breath. He hung up the phone, got in his truck and, rather than drive out the driveway, he drove over the curb. The bottom of his truck scraped the curb.

He then stopped right in front of me, leaned down so he could make eye contact, and looked at me as if to say, “What are you going to do about it?”
There wasn’t much I could do, so I waved him over. He just floored it and took off. I jumped in my patrol car and went after him. I got behind him with my lights and siren on and he continued to evade me.

He finally pulled into a gas station. I asked for his license and registration. He did not have a license with him, but fumbled through the glove box and handed me an envelope with his name on it. I direct-ed him out of the vehicle to conduct Field Sobriety Tests. He couldn’t even maintain his balance with his eyes closed and finally said, “*^%# This” and he started to run away.

He was wearing a T-shirt, jeans and sneakers, and I was wearing my full uniform and gear, a bulletproof vest and boots. I told dispatch my location and I was in foot pursuit.

I reached out and grabbed his T-shirt. He turned around, punched me in the face and took off. I caught up to him on the other side of the street and attempted to just take him to the ground. He tried fighting me, so I took out my baton and hit him a couple of times on the outside of his knee.

He then took off running down the side walk, and I ripped the rest of his shirt off as he pulled away. It appeared as though he was going to get away, but then he just stopped, turned around and started to run back to-wards me to attack me.

We fought a little more, then he took off again. This time, he had a bigger jump on me and would have been long gone, but rather than just run away, he turned again and charged at me. This time, I went to strike him in the clavicle, but he put both of his hands on my gun and tried to pull it out of my holster.

I was afraid the gun would come out, so I pushed him back. When I did that, he knocked the baton out of my hand, and it fell to the ground. We both bent over to pick it up, but he got it first. I backed up against a wall. He then raised up the baton and was about to strike me in the head. I drew my handgun and yelled for him to drop it.

He continued to swing towards my head, so I shot him one time. I actually saw the bullet hit his bare chest. I holstered my weapon and helped him to the ground. I tried to administer first aid, but I knew he wasn’t going to make it. I immediately called for medical aid as I did all I could.

The shooting occurred around 7:00 pm, but due to the preliminary investigation, I never got home until about 2:30 am. As I walked in the front door of my house, it suddenly hit me, I killed someone.

I knew it was either him or I, but it didn’t change the fact that I had to take a human life. -BS

The author, Brian Smith, served four years in the United States Marine Corps, and retired as an Assistant Chief with the California Highway Patrol. He resides in Bakersfield, CA. If you have a personal “Coptale” to share, please contact Brian at