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3 Ex-Agents Under Fire : A Look at Their Reputations--and Their Roots

First of three parts.

December 18, 1988|WILLIAM OVEREND | Times Staff Writer

Garcia claimed discrimination on the basis of national origin when the DEA fired him at one point for refusing a transfer to Detroit. He won reinstatement in a decision by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in 1986.

"Everybody knew Garcia was violating the rules around here in a lot of areas, but people were afraid to touch him," one agent said. "He was a guy with nine lives, and he always seemed to win."

So, according to several DEA sources, Garcia was tolerated. Because of the courts, the DEA had no choice.

During his DEA career, he wrote two karate books, including one titled "The Fighting Art of Tang Soo Do" in 1982, in which he is described as "a legend in his own time."

In a forward to the book, Garcia was credited with appearances in such karate films as "Enter the Dragon," "Black Belt Jones," "Blind Rage" and "Enforcer From Death Row."

'Mind Power'

Garcia emphasized "mind power" in his books on karate.

"One of the implications of mind power is the ability . . . to reach goals and not settle for anything less," he wrote.

According to his former colleagues, one of Garcia's major goals was money. In the end, according to federal prosecutors, he had enough to pay cash for a $581,000 home in Rancho Palos Verdes. He had more money in Swiss banks, prosecutors say.

But he was viewed as a failure as a drug agent.

"When they move a guy around from squad to squad, you know there's trouble," one former colleague said. "With Darnell, they switched him all around, finally switched him from days to nights.

"Then he just stopped showing up. He'd disappear for a week at a time. He was a ghost."

Wayne Countryman

The biggest surprise for DEA agents in Los Angeles was the indictment of Countryman, described by federal officials as the least culpable of the three defendants.

"I heard his detective business had gone belly-up," an agent said. "It's too bad he's in this thing. He was a hard-working guy.

"His brother is the DEA's chemist in San Diego, and everybody knows him. Wayne had a lot of friends."

Like Jackson, Countryman, 45, grew up in Hartford, Conn. He obtained a degree from a junior college there, then spent nine years as a Hartford police officer before joining the DEA in 1977.

Lt. Brian W. Kelly, head of the Hartford police vice and narcotics division, told the Hartford Courant that he walked a beat with Countryman for three years in the early 1970s.

"He was very dedicated, very respected," Kelly said. "A genuinely nice guy.

Model for Many

"He was extremely good with people," Kelly added. "He was the model for a lot of the other police officers. I'm shocked by this."

In Los Angeles, however, Countryman also came under DEA scrutiny for running an outside business. According to sources, he was first warned about operating a private detective agency, then threatened with suspension for ignoring the warning.

About that time in 1986, Countryman retired from the DEA on a partial disability.

Unlike his co-defendants, Countryman was not known as a "fast runner." He was a family man with two children and a house in Walnut.

At the time of Countryman's arrest, while arguing that Jackson should be held without bail, Assistant U.S. Atty. Joyce Karlin agreed to Countryman's release on $120,000 bail.

"Nobody knows right now what he's going to do," one former colleague said. "If he is involved, maybe he can help himself. If he has anything to say, I hope they'll let him testify."

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