By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
By Charles Lam
McCall Gets His Man, Again
The district attorney’s investigator takes the long view when it comes to tracking down fugitives
He’s one of Orange County’s premier law-enforcement officers, but you’d be forgiven if you mistook him for a banker. Clint McCall has the round face, receding hairline and gait of a middle-aged man who isn’t going to chase a suspect down the street. Good thing he doesn’t have to: Fugitives can flee into obscurity for decades and, out of nowhere, find themselves face-to-face with McCall, 43, and a pair of handcuffs.
Just ask Baldomero Johnny Diaz. The ex-Santa Ana gangster must have thought he’d permanently slipped through police clutches. In 1990, Diaz escaped from juvenile hall while waiting to serve a life-in-prison sentence after being convicted of six attempted murder counts. From the age of 18 to 35, Diaz spent a few years hiding in Mexico, returned to California, changed his name and Social Security number six times, got married, raised three kids, and worked hard in construction. He owns an 18-unit apartment complex in Mexico and an upscale Riverside County house with a pool.
But Diaz’s days of freedom became numbered in mid-February. That’s when McCall started as the supervisory investigator for the gang unit at the district attorney’s office. He immediately walked into Assistant DA John Anderson’s office and said, “Give me your toughest [fugitive case].”
Anderson thought of Diaz, a man he’d prosecuted for the 1989 “2nd Street Massacre”— so named even though none of the seriously wounded victims was killed by 17 bullets fired from two handguns from a slow-moving, stolen car. Over the years, dozens of detectives had failed to find Diaz, who—we now know—mutilated each of his fingerprints. Anderson gave McCall the Diaz file without high expectations.
Forty minutes later, McCall handed the prosecutor a DMV photograph of a man using the name Raul Huerta Jr. and asked, “Is that him?”
It’d been 18 years, but Anderson smiled.
How did he do it?
“I just have this knack for finding people,” the ex-Irvine cop told me, declining to identify his methods.
On March 4, McCall asked the Riverside sheriff’s SWAT team to pounce. Surrounded, Diaz made a statement as if a Cops camera crew were present: “This is what happens growing up with a lack of parental supervision.” He then told McCall he’d been a “good parent” and crime-free as a fugitive. McCall shook his head no. Meticulous in his investigation, he also knew Diaz had been arrested for prostitution solicitation in 2001 and DUI in 2006 using different names.
Diaz, who will be shipped to prison in coming weeks, wasn’t McCall’s first impressive catch:
• In 2006, he led the investigation into questionable deputy conduct in the jail-beating death of John Derek Chamberlain.
• In 2005, he found George England living under an alias on a boat in Florida. The Costa Mesa pedophile had been on the run since 1977.
• In 2002, he located 29-year-old Robert Garcia, who murdered a 14-year-old Tustin girl after a 1991 high-school-football game and then went underground for 11 years.
I’m thinking Tommy Lee Jones should play McCall in The Fugitive III.
Law enforcement here has a history of demonizing the victims of hate crimes, especially those who are gay. But though Scott Steiner is an OC deputy district attorney, and a conservative one at that, he breaks the callous stereotype. During his stint as head of the hate-crimes unit in the DA’s office, Steiner vigorously pursued degenerate bigots who targeted minorities for violence, no matter the minority.
Do you recall the Cal State Fullerton student who assaulted two young ladies because he thought they were lesbians? Remember the, um, gentleman who attacked a wheelchair-bound black man while calling him a “nigger” in Costa Mesa? How about the white supremacist who yelled racial slurs, and then attacked a black Dave & Buster’s security guard at the Irvine Spectrum? In such cases, I’ve observed that Steiner has comforted victims, made the abusers face justice—and, impressively, sometimes did so while facing judges who didn’t want to enforce California’s hate-crimes statute.
Now, Steiner—tested in more than 60 trials in a variety of prosecution units, including gangs—tells me he will run to replace retiring Judge Margaret Anderson. Steiner plans to announce his candidacy in June, a year before the 2010 election. Those who’ve already endorsed him include his boss, DA Tony Rackauckas; Republican Congressman Ed Royce; Democratic State Senator Lou Correa; America’s Most Wanted host John Walsh; and (I’d imagine) his dad, ex-county supervisor Bill Steiner.
WHAT’S ON YOUR IPOD?
The March 5 graduation of Class 188 at the sheriff’s-training academy in Tustin was a memorable evening filled with lofty speeches, bagpipes, Christian prayers, promises of ethical service (not corruption) and, I kid you not, bass-heavy rap music in a video that celebrated the 19-member group’s accomplishments.