A kind CHP officer helps suicidal Mountain Ranch man rekindle hope

Ronnie Smith of Mountain Ranch says he is now taking steps to combat depression thanks to the generosity and kindness of a CHP officer he met by chance after a vehicle breakdown Tuesday night.

Ronnie Smith wants the world to know that the kindness of a law enforcement officer – specifically California Highway Patrol Officer Kory Harrington – inspired him to keep on living.

“I told him I’m about the end of my rope,” Smith said of the encounter Tuesday night on Mountain Ranch Road.

It happened like this. Smith, 70, has many health problems and not a lot of money. Tuesday, he borrowed a friend’s old Dodge Dakota to go pick up his medications. On the way back to his home in Mountain Ranch, the truck died on a blind curve on Mountain Ranch Road west of Michel Road. It was after dark, about 7:30 p.m.

Smith said an off-duty sheriff sergeant was first on the scene. She called for the CHP. Harrington was the one assigned to take care of the situation. A tow truck arrived to move the pickup.

Harrington asked Smith how he would pay for the tow truck. Smith admitted he couldn’t. Harrington asked what he needed. Smith asked for a ride home. “I proceeded to tell him about my situation,” Smith said.

It’s a tough situation. Smith lives on disability insurance payments. He suffers from diabetes, congestive heart failure and hepatitis C, a result he said, of his years as a methamphetamine user. “After 48 years, my wife left me (in June) and I don’t know why.”

Smith said he’s several months behind on his rent. “My PG&E is going to be shut off on the 20th of this month,” he said. Smith admitted that he has contemplated suicide. “He was a very good listener,” Smith said of Harrington.

Upon arrival at the humble house Smith occupies in Mountain Ranch, Smith said that Harrington approached him as he got out of the car. “He proceeded to give me all the cash in his wallet,” Smith said. “I told him, “No, you don’t have to do that.’ He said, ‘just take it.’”

Smith said that Harrington’s tone was firm, as though Smith might be sent to jail if he didn’t take the money. Smith said Harrington also shook his hand and told him to “Hang in there.”

That handshake, the, “Hang in there” and the patient way Harrington listened meant more than the money, Smith said. “Officer Harrington made me take steps toward coming out of my depression.” Smith said he began clearing the clutter in his house.

Another step was to place a phone call to Harrington’s supervisor. A spokeswoman at the CHP office in San Andreas confirmed that had happened.

Officer Rebecca Myers on Friday said that Harrington was off duty and not available for an interview.

Smith said he believes media coverage of police shootings in recent years has unfairly portrayed those in the profession.

“Today, cops are getting a bad rap. I think people should step up when they have a good encounter with a police officer.”

​​Contact Dana M. Nichols at dana@calaverasenterprise.com or call 498-2052.

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