BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Damacio Diaz found himself on the other side of the law when he was convicted and sentenced for his role in selling drugs stolen from a Bakersfield Police Department evidence room.
“People discovered who I was, what my background was, and I was assaulted by numerous inmates,” Diaz told 17 News.
Diaz’s case gained widespread attention and is now back in the spotlight with the release of the Hulu docuseries “Killing County.“
17 News reached out to the Bakersfield Police Department about this interview with Diaz.
A department spokesperson provided this statement:
“The Federal Bureau of Investigation investigated the corruption of Mr. Diaz. Any and all additional claims made by Diaz at the time were also handled by the FBI. As a result of the FBI investigation, Mr. Diaz was sentenced to federal prison for betraying the trust of his community and co-workers. No other criminal acts were substantiated after thorough inquiry.”
Diaz was at the height of his career after being featured in the Disney film “McFarland USA.” The Bakersfield police officer lost his career committed crimes he was sworn to prevent.
“2011 wasn’t the beginning of all of this,” Diaz said.
“You have to understand the the standard operating procedure for for a cop like me, for a lot of cops. For a lot of police officers there are things that you do that you are asked to do that you’re expected to do … Not every police officer follows this path — only a few. But the few are chosen and selected were really early on. Very early.”
Diaz says officers are chosen by the higher ranks.
“Once they identify that you are the kind of person who who will take certain steps that have been to develop you, you know, doing things that other cops wouldn’t do: Changing your story when you when when asked, to covering for other people.
So by time I was involved in in the narcotic investigation, business. The map was already I mean, the road was mapped out for me, I knew exactly what needed to be done. Because I had been taught and asked and expected to do certain things. So paying informants for narcotic seizures was very common for me.”
Detective Patrick Mara was also convicted and sentenced for his role in the misconduct.
Then-Bakersfield Police Chief Greg Williamson said in 2016: “I hope that somehow, someway, the media determines or decides to print these two officers were the only ones involved in this incident and it’s not widespread corruption.”
Diaz said the culture at the department during his time was “to get the case closed by any means possible.”
“Whatever the steps taken to achieve that goal were your business,” Diaz said. “You didn’t have to disclose every step that you took. You didn’t have to disclose or document, every single step you took. You documented what was necessary to bring that case to trial or prosecution. But how you got there was your business.”
In 2013, Diaz says, he began to question what he was doing in the department, but didn’t realize what he did would put him in prison.
“I honestly believed that if the time ever came that someone would investigate us,” Diaz said, “it would be taken care of by those in power.”
Diaz said it was a pattern he had seen before: Misconduct, poor decisions were swept under the rug.
Then in 2013, Jorge Ramirez was shot and killed by Bakersfield police outside the Four Points Sheraton Hotel. It later came out Diaz and Mara were involved in making Ramirez an off-the-books informant. Diaz claims he never knew Ramirez.
“He’s not my informant. I never met him. I never spoke to him,” Diaz told 17 News this week. “That is something that somebody made up. I’ve never met the family, never met Jorge Ramirez, never called him on the phone. Never spoke to him in person or by email, text, phone. Didn’t even know who he was until after the hotel incident.”
Diaz is convinced the Bakersfield Police Department knows who coordinated Ramirez’s activities.
“Oh, they know. There’s no doubt that the department knows exactly. who handled him. They know. They’ve always known.”
Diaz was placed on administrative leave in February 2015, just days after the premiere of “McFarland USA” and was arrested later that year.
About three months after his arrest, Diaz resigned from the police department. He pleaded guilty to stealing methamphetamines and marijuana. He gave those drugs to a businessman to get the drugs back on the streets.
And while Diaz was involved and admits to the corruption, he claims, during his time in the department between the late 1990s up until his arrest in 2016, it was not uncommon to have corrupt officers who followed corrupt procedures.
“Being a police officer in Kern County, was different than being a police officer in other counties. … In order to achieve the goal of enforcing the law, sometimes, you know police officers take extra steps.”
Diaz claims there were other Bakersfield police officers involved in misconduct during his time as an officer from the late ’90s up until his 2016 arrest, but won’t name names.