I was heartbroken to learn Monday of the sudden death — apparently of natural causes — of Danny Horrigan.
I met Dan a couple years ago, when he approached my newspaper about telling his nearly unbelievable life story of infiltrating two outlaw motorcycle clubs and working undercover for the DEA, FBI and ATF.
Others in the office thought he was nuts and of course handed the phone to me. His story gushed out like floodwaters. The snatches of his disconnected flotsam made no sense, if they were even real.
It took a year of rearranging my brain, fact-checking, and digging, but in the end, everything Dan told me checked out. I do mean everything. I can’t say that for a lot of people I write about.
Even his off-the-hook story of Navy Seals who became Mongols and tried to sell plastic explosives to the gang. I thought surely he made that one up — until I dug up a classified ATF document describing said Navy Seals in great detail.
Dan could be a handful — he was a loud, powerful man who still seemed to crave approval from those he respected (well, damn, who doesn’t?) — yet I loved working with him.
I understood who he truly was the day I was sued by a Nuestra Familia gang member for libel and defamation.
No, I’m not joking. In small claims court. Seriously.
Dan had my back. He immediately jumped when he heard of the threat and offered to bring a few dozen of his biker pals into town to escort me safely from parking lot to courthouse.
The case was quickly thrown out after intervention from my newspaper’s lawyers, but I always regretted not taking it to trial. It would have been worth it to see the faces of court security guards when Dan and his buddies took over the parking lot. Not to mention the faces of the NF plaintiffs who sued me. And that wasn’t the only time he had my back.
Those words are the essence of who he was: Dan had my back. Friends everywhere say it. All he required was a belief that you were truthful and decent. Once he decided that, you knew he’d do anything for you.
Dan Horrigan’s heart was bigger than his hulking physique, bigger than his whole wild life and the vast desert he lived in. If in the end we learn it was his heart that gave out, it’s only because it was too damn huge for that body.
Rest in peace, Danny, you had a helluva ride.
To read more about Daniel Horrigan’s life, see: http://www.montereyherald.com/ci_16362101
To read his obituary, see: http://www.montereyherald.com/local/ci_18467590