I saw Casey Diaz interviewed on television. Diaz is a former gang member who spent years in prison for his numerous crimes, including second degree murder. His story was so compelling, I immediately ordered his book and could not put it down. His story moved me to tears many times and I just knew I had to share some of it with all of you.
In Diaz’s book, “The Shot Caller,” he tells his story, beginning with his troubled childhood in the heart of Los Angeles in the 1980s. His mother and father brought Diaz to America from El Salvador when he was just a toddler. Some of his earliest memories were of his father’s terrible, abusive behavior to his mother and to himself.
His mother worked several jobs to keep food on the table and his father, an alcoholic, did nothing to contribute financially or otherwise. It is not difficult to see how these circumstances might lead an impressionable young boy to seek acceptance and support. That is precisely what happened when, at the tender age of 11, Diaz was recruited by a teenage gang member. Diaz endured the initiation rituals and relished that he had a new “family.”
In his book, Diaz chronicles his journey and his years in the gang. His simple style makes it feel as if he is in the room with you telling you his harrowing story — all leading up to when he kills a rival gang member with no remorse.
Eventually Diaz was caught by the police and sentenced to nearly 13 years in maximum security prison for second degree murder and 52 counts of robbery. Diaz remembers being fearless and perhaps for that reason was treated as the “worst of the worst.” Diaz was called “The Shot Caller” because he was a senior ranking gang member who called the shots — in prison, that meant he could decide who lived and who died. Prison guards knew of his status and treated him accordingly.
Enduring solitary confinement for more than three years, Diaz takes the reader inside those four walls and tells of his struggle to maintain his sanity. Once, a woman asked if there was a man in his cell and the prison guard said there was, referring to Diaz, but that she didn’t need to waste any time on him — he wasn’t worth it. The woman said she thought God was not only going to save Diaz, but also use him for His glory. Diaz was indifferent. He didn’t believe in God and certainly didn’t know anything about God or Christianity.
I don’t want to spoil the story for you, but suffice it to say Diaz had several powerful visions and messages from God. These experiences led him to a meeting with the prison Chaplain and his extraordinary conversion to Christianity. When I tell you his story was credible and believable, I mean it. Diaz began studying the Bible and learning everything he could about his new faith. God also told Diaz to witness about his faith — and even when he was severely punished (as in he got beat up) for witnessing to other prisoners, he refused to quit.
Diaz successfully brought several prisoners to Christ and also started a ministry where he smuggled notes of encouragement to prisoners and prison guards promising to pray for them.
When Diaz was released from prison early, he vowed to make something of himself. His wealthy, self-made uncle helped him learn a trade and get on his feet. Diaz went on to meet and marry his wife and started what became a successful business.
Diaz’s story is fascinating and such an inspiring one of redemption. If you have a chance, I highly recommend you check out his book. What an amazing life he has had. I have no doubt Diaz will go on to positively influence numerous others. Read more about Diaz at www.caseydiaz.net.
South Forsyth resident Adlen Robinson is author of “Home Matters: The Guide to Organizing Your Life and Home.” E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.