Highway Patrol Stories
By Chuck Coats
PURPOSE OF THIS BOOK
With all the negative press about Law Enforcement, I think this is the right time to show a side that is not talked about very much. Law Enforcement Officials have said if you could just ride with us for a day, you would see that the bad press only covers a small percentage of the organization.
Since it is generally difficult for the general public to ride with us, I have written experiences that cover two decades. I will take you on a ride that will show light hearted, dangerous, funny, emotional and even life saving events.
WHAT OTHERS SAY
"Serious and humorous stories of life as a N.C. Highway Patrolman told by a trooper who either lived them or knew the people that did. The author also shares a brief look at some of the politics that govern the patrol’s operations. A very interesting read on all levels."
Chuck Coats has written an insightful book about some of the antics and serious times of NC SHP Troopers. Some of his stories are laughable, others you will shake your head at, plus several show the danger and seriousness of the job. He also points out that, unfortunately, there are still some politics involved. I thank Chuck for his comments and stories about 1st/Sgt G.A. Stewart….he was my dad. He loved the Highway Patrol and I am sure he did his best to see that it was a respected and well-trained organization, especially in his area of responsibility, District 6 of Troop C. My dad’s career and my association with troopers also helped to nudge me into serving 26 years (early ‘70s to late 1990s) as a Reserve Officer with the Smithfield PD so I can vouch that these stories, truly, are the way it was.
HIGHWAY PATROL STORIES INTRODUCTION
This book is comprised of stories of situations involving me and/or other Troopers and our experiences. The idea for the book began when I told a funny story to someone and he said, “You need to write a book.” That was several years ago and the book has been a work in progress. The first story is the one I told to the individual who gave me the idea. It is titled “Just trying to make it home.” As I thought about a Title for the book and remembering this story, I thought we had something in common. He was drunk and told me he was just trying to make it home. Each shift I began was with the prayer, “Please help me just make it home.” These stories are in no particular order. They are as factually correct as my memory would allow.
Now, climb in the passenger seat of my patrol car, C-643, as I take you on a ride through my many years as a North Carolina State Trooper.
About the Author
I was born in 1943. My dad was in the Army stationed at Ft. Lewis, Washington on the west coast. Soon after my birth, my dad received orders to join the 644th tank destroyer Battalion in Germany. Subsequently, my mother took me, an 8 week old infant, on a 3000 mile train ride to Columbia SC, her home town. She was one tough lady.
We lived there with her mom and dad until my dad returned years later. Dad was injured by shrapnel and received a medical discharge in 1945. We stayed in Columbia until I was in the 3rd grade when we moved to Durham, NC. I completed high school and with no desire to go to college, I joined the Air Force. My scores on the entrance exam showed me eligible for Administrative or General Fields. One of the professions in the General Field was Air Police. That’s what I wanted. I knew then I wanted Law Enforcement as a profession.
My dad had a different idea. He wanted me to go into the Administrative Field. His reasoning was that I could learn a trade there and have options when I got out. He said you can still go into law enforcement after your service if you still want it. When I came home after 3 years in Germany, I still wanted it. In January 1965 I joined the Durham Police Department. After working there for 3 years, I applied for the North Carolina Highway Patrol. I was turned down due to eyesight not being 20/20. A few years later, that requirement was lowered to “corrected” 20/20. Not wanting to give up, I re-applied and my eyesight was found to be 20/20. In 1972 I was accepted to attend NCSHP Basic Patrol School at the Institute of Government in Chapel Hill NC.
I had been warned by Troopers I worked along side as a Police Officer that the school was tough. No one could have told me how tough. Highway Patrol School was much harder than the military basic training I had completed years before. For anyone considering the Patrol as a career be warned; if you don’t want it more than anything else in your life, you will not stay. The instructors will run you away. That will be proved in some of the following stories.
Just trying to make it home...
One clear Monday night I received a radio call to check on a vehicle that was in the middle of Powhatan Road in Johnston County with the motor running. Upon arriving, I found a 1968 dark green Chevrolet with the engine racing. A small-framed man in his mid 50’s occupied the Chevy. I stopped my patrol car behind him, turned on my blue light and got out. As I approached his car, I noticed his window was rolled up, his lights were on, and he was staring straight ahead. His foot had the accelerator pressed to the floor and his gearshift lever was in park. With the engine running full speed, there was a cloud of smoke behind him. I stood outside his car for a moment and watched him. His gaze straight ahead never changed. I tapped on his window with my hand. He momentarily looked at me and went straight back to the road ahead. I tapped a second time and this time he took his foot off the accelerator and slammed it down on the brake. I motioned for him to roll his window down which he did. I asked him where he was going. He replied in a slurred, drunken voice, “I’m just trying to make it home sir.” “Well you are not doing a very good job of that,” I replied. “Why don’t you come ride with me?” He said, “Yes Sir! Anything you say Sir!”
I helped the very inebriated gentleman from his car and escorted him to the passenger side of my patrol vehicle. I knew I would have to leave him unattended in my car while I moved his car from the roadway. I told him I was going to move his car from the road and asked him, “Do I need to handcuff you or will you behave?” I’ll do anything you say Sir,” was his response. I decided not to handcuff him and after searching him, placed him in the passenger front seat of my patrol car. I said, “You sit right here while I move your car from the road.” “Yes sir, anything you say sir!” he said. I moved his vehicle to the shoulder of the road, locked the doors and returned to my car where he was patiently waiting. I handed him his car keys, which he put in his pocket. “Thank you Sir,” he said. I placed him under arrest for driving while intoxicated and told him we would have to go to Smithfield for a Breathalyzer test to be administered. “Yes sir, anything you say sir!” was his response.
We arrived at the Smithfield Police Department and I helped him inside. Once in the breathalyzer room, I told him to have a seat. “Yes sir, anything you say sir!” While waiting for the breathalyzer test to be given, I asked the gentleman the questions on the Alcohol Influence Report Form. The AIR form has a series of questions to be used for court purposes to show the degree of intoxication. Questions are asked such as name, address, birth date, what were you doing during the last two hours, how much have you had to drink, where were you going, where had you been, how long have you been drinking, when was the last time you ate, what did you eat, what town are you in now, what time is it, what day of the week is it etc. He answered each of the questions with a degree of difficulty, but as honestly and openly as he could. Although he was extremely intoxicated, he was as pleasant and cordial as any drunk I had previously arrested. Every response from him was Yes Sir, anything you say sir. The breathalyzer test was completed and his blood alcohol reading was .30, which was three times over the limit, (.10 at that time).
With the results of the test in hand, I escorted him to the magistrate’s office next door. The magistrate’s office was equipped with a 4-foot high counter that went from wall to wall. The magistrate’s desk was behind this counter. It was the usual procedure for the magistrate to inquire as to the arrested person’s demeanor so as to determine whether a bond could be set so that a family member or friend could take a person home or whether they needed to sleep a while in jail. The magistrate asked me how Mr. Chambers had been conducting himself and if he had given me any trouble. Before I could tell the magistrate how good Mr. Chambers had conducted himself, he suddenly bolted to the top of the counter. While standing and wobbling on top of the counter, he pointed his finger at the magistrate and said in a drunken and slurred voice, “Let me tell you one Damn thing buddy.” “Oh no,” I thought, “Here we go.” This guy has been just as nice as any one could be and now, at the last minute he is going to break bad.” Mr. Chambers continued, “Any Son of a #%**@ that can walk up to my car going 60 mph and ask me where I’m going, do you think I am going to give him any trouble!?”
When E.F. Hutton Talks...
It was a beautiful, sunny Easter Sunday afternoon. As on most holidays, law enforcement was out in full force. The Troopers working the day shift had come to the district office to do their weekly reports. The Troopers working the late shift were coming in to fuel their patrol vehicles for the night ahead. With the majority of our district at the district office, we heard a call from our dispatcher. “Any car in the vicinity of I-95 north of Fayetteville?” Our office is located less than one mile from I-95 and about 50 miles north of Fayetteville. She had hit the jackpot. There were at least ten troopers at the office with others on the way. The dispatcher continued, “Car 100 is in pursuit traveling north on I-95 from Fayetteville.” Car 100 is the Colonel and commander of the entire State Highway Patrol. “Any car in position, please advise,” she said. One of our guys told her of the number of cars at the office and that we were responding. For some reason, the excitement I guess, most all officers enjoy getting involved in a pursuit. Therefore, not only were there SHP cars responding, but local police departments and the sheriff’s department had heard the call on their monitors and were responding as well. The SHP cars drove the short distance to I-95 at its intersection with US 701.
When we arrived, we saw that traffic was extremely heavy with the Easter travelers. By the time we arrived, the Colonel, who was driving an unmarked patrol car, was close enough to talk directly to us a car to car. He said, “I am in pursuit of a yellow Camaro. We are traveling north on I-95 in excess of 80 MPH.” The speed limit was 55 MPH. We decided with the traffic as heavy as it was we would place patrol cars on the shoulder and in the median of I-95 with blue lights flashing and just wait. Several troopers were standing in the roadway directing traffic through our checkpoint. Of course by this time, the traffic had slowed considerably. There were approximately 20 to 30 law enforcement vehicles and just as many officers gathered at this intersection. It created quite a spectacle.
When the yellow Camaro finally rolled up to the checkpoint, the astonished driver asked, “Have you guys had a bank robbery or what?” “No,” I said, “We are waiting for you.” “Why me?” he asked. “Well,” I said, “It seems the Colonel is trying to get you stopped. He has been trying to stop you since you left Fayetteville.” The driver replied, “I had no idea he was even back there. I may have been speeding, but I certainly wasn’t trying to evade him.” We had him to pull over to the shoulder of the roadway to wait for the Colonel to come through. While we were waiting he asked, “Why are there so many officers here?” “Have you ever heard of E.F. Hutton?” I asked. He said, “Yes sir, he is the guy who talks and people listen. “Well, that guy in the unmarked car is our E.F. Hutton!”
In addition to these stories there are 68 others including:
- The Percy Flowers Story
- Does the Highway Patrol Have a Quota?
- What should I not say when stopped by Law Enforcement
- Fuzz Busters – Do they work?
- Some “Tricks of the Trade”
A SPECIAL DEDICATION
On the day this book was going to print, a North Carolina State Trooper was shot and killed while on duty. I wanted to recognize his family and his memory with this Special Dedication.
To the family and in memory of North Carolina State Trooper Kevin Conner
who was killed in the line of duty just after midnight on October 17, 2018.
Trooper Conner was conducting a traffic stop and was shot as he approached
the vehicle. Trooper Conner leaves behind a wife and two young children.
From all that knew him, he was a model State Trooper and beloved by all.