‘McFarland USA’ Hero Arrested For Conspiring With Drug Dealer

Coburn Palmer - Author

Oct. 28 2016, Updated 3:51 a.m. ET

A cross-country runner portrayed in Disney’s McFarland USA, who is now grown up and working as a Bakersfield Police Detective, was arrested Friday for conspiring with a drug dealer to help him escape arrest.

Federal authorities say 43-year-old Damacio Diaz took bribes from a narcotics dealer, and, in exchange, provided the names of police informants, gave details of law enforcement investigations, and tried to protect him from arrest.

The 16-count indictment against the 17-year police veteran includes bribery and trafficking methamphetamine. Diaz allegedly took tens of thousands of dollars in bribes between 2012 and 2015.

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U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner told ABC 23, Diaz also stole drugs confiscated for evidence for his personal use, betrayed confidential wiretap information, and filed false tax returns.

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“When a police officer misuses his badge to commit crimes for personal profit, it is the ultimate betrayal of public trust.”

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Damacio’s brother, Danny Diaz, also portrayed in the movieMcFarland USA, told ABC23 his family stands behind the detective.

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“I just want everyone to know, we live in the greatest nation, where you are innocent until proven guilty. We love our brother and know that he will be facing an uphill climb. We’ll be there to offer support for him, his wife and his kids.”

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The movie portrays Diaz and his brother Danny as members of the championship cross country team coached by Jim White (Kevin Costner) in 1987. The team went on to win nine different championships and the movie inspired scores of runners to follow in the team’s footsteps.

The story is especially heartwarming as it showcases the children of farm workers who worked alongside their parents, went to school and attended cross-country practice to bring home the state championship.

The two Hollywood actors who played Danny and Damacio in the movie McFarland USA were in Bakersfield Friday when they heard the news of Diaz’s arrest. They said they wish the family the best.

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McFarland Mayor Manuel Cantu told ABC 30 the whole town has been affected by Diaz’s arrest, including kids on the school’s cross country team.

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“I don’t wanna believe that he would have made a mistake, that’s something that we don’t want to ever believe especially of our officers.”

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Diaz has been on paid administrative leave since the investigation involving the IRS, FBI, and DEA, alongside local police, began in February. Directly before he was put on leave, Diaz walked the red carpet in Hollywood during the premiere of McFarland USA.

Authorities told the Bakersfield Californian that Diaz had taken bribes from a drug dealer by the name Guillermo Magallanes, who was also a police informant. Magallanes gave Diaz thousands of dollars to protect him from arrest, inform him of law enforcement activities, and disclose confidential information.

Authorities say that although the informants were in danger, no one came to them because of the disclosures.

Friday, Diaz was asked to come into police headquarters and was arrested. He was arraigned later that day and his bail was set at $200,000.

If he is found guilty, Diaz could receive life in prison for conspiracy along with 10 years for each bribery count, 20 years for possessing methamphetamine with intent to sell, five years for each count of disclosing wiretap information, and three years for each false tax return.

Authorities say they will also seize his Toyota Sequoia, almost $50,000 in his bank account and his McFarland home.

Local residents are shocked at their hero’s downfall and have been left hoping their children will still be inspired by the story.

Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Disney


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