HOUSTON - Julissa Diaz has gone from an admired HPD officer to an officer accused of tampering with evidence related to narcotics.
Diaz made her first court appearance early Friday morning, then was released from jail Friday afternoon after posting a $100,000 bond.
A source told Channel 2 News that a SWAT team arrested the 11-year veteran, who lives in the city of South Houston, during her overnight shift Thursday morning.
Diaz, 37, was no ordinary officer. According to the Houston Police Officer's Union, she was recognized as Patrol Officer of the Month in 2015 for apprehending two major drug dealers during a routine traffic stop. Her commendation said she "has always demonstrated a passion for making a difference and her dedication to duty."
According to our source, Diaz worked the night shift at HPD's Clear Lake Station. She was arrested as part of an undercover sting operation.
The prosecutor said that while Diaz was on duty, she pulled over a driver for DWI on the Gulf Freeway Wednesday. Officials said the driver was actually an undercover officer with one kilogram of fake cocaine bundled in a bag in plain sight on the passenger's seat.
The prosecutor said Diaz didn't collect the drugs as evidence, but instead had a wrecker driver take the car away. The prosecutor said Diaz took the undercover officer to a sobering center and after that, SWAT team members arrested Diaz.
Officials said they stopped the wrecker driver, who they claimed smelled of marijuana, and recovered the fake cocaine.
After being released Friday afternoon, Diaz ran out of the jail building and away from KPRC2 reporter Joel Eisenbaum, who was trying to interview her. She jumped into a waiting pickup truck, which then peeled away.
Joe Gamaldi, the vice president of the Houston Police Officers Union, tweeted, "Although innocent until proven guilty, enraged that an officer within our department appears to have disgraced the badge that we all hold so dear. At the same time I could not be more proud that it was our members who investigated and arrested her.”
"I think it really shows 99 percent of us out there are doing a great and this 1 percent can do irreparable harm," Gamaldi said.
In response, Chief Art Acevedo said in a statement:
"Ms. Diaz's betrayal of the public trust and oath of office is inconsistent with the dedication of the men and women of the Houston Police Department (HPD) and their tireless, honorable service.
"While we cannot overstate our depth of disappointment, we take solace in the fact the investigation that led to Ms. Diaz's arrest was conducted by men and women of the HPD, the same organization and co-workers she betrayed.
"We look forward to working with the Harris County District Attorney's office to ensure she is held to the highest level of accountability under the law. Ms. Diaz's peace officer powers have been suspended and she has been placed on administrative leave pending the completion of an internal affairs investigation.
"I urge anyone with information regarding her criminal misconduct or misconduct by any member of the Houston Police Department to contact us."
Diaz has been relieved of duty with pay, pending the outcome of the investigation. She is charged with tampering, and fabricating evidence. Three other men, including the wrecker driver, were arrested and charged in the case.
The judge set Diaz's bond at $100,000. The conditions of her bond also include surrendering her passport, wearing a GPS monitor and taking random drug tests.
Her next court appearance is scheduled for Nov. 13.
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