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Iowa law enforcement officers honored for commitment to drug abuse prevention

This news story was published on November 21, 2018.
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DES MOINES – Three law enforcement officers from Iowa are being honored by the United States Attorney’s Offices for the Northern and Southern Districts of Iowa and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) for their commitment to reducing drug abuse.  The recipients of the 2018 Enrique S. Camarena Award are Special Agent Carlos Lavastida of the DEA, Lieutenant Brad Bollinger of the Sioux City Police Department, and Officer Justin Brandt of the Waterloo Police Department.

The award is named after Enrique “Kiki” Camarena, who was an 11-year veteran agent of the DEA before being kidnapped, brutally tortured and then murdered in Mexico in 1985 while working undercover gathering information and evidence about drug lords.  This award is presented each year to local law enforcement officers who best exemplify the qualities and principles for which Agent Camarena gave his life—specifically, making their communities a safer place to live through outstanding drug prevention and enforcement efforts.

This year’s award recipients have gone above and beyond the call of duty in pursuit of a drug-free community:

  • Special Agent Carlos Lavastida saved the lives of two young girls who were the victims of sex trafficking within a crack cocaine distribution organization.  Through Special Agent Lavastida’s hard work, passion, and dedication, these young girls were provided the services they needed to help them deal with the traumatic experiences they endured at the hands of the crack cocaine traffickers.  The case resulted in two consecutive life sentences and an order requiring the payment of over $700,000 in restitution.
  • Lieutenant Brad Bollinger has demonstrated a lifelong dedication to fighting drug abuse and working with young people.  Through his work for many years with the GREAT and DARE programs, Lieutenant Bollinger provided valuable anti-drug and anti-gang curriculum to young students in multiple schools.  In his capacity leading the Department’s Youth Bureau and as the Community Policing Coordinator, Lieutenant Bollinger developed and coordinated a numerous programming activities aimed at keeping young people involved in lawful activities and away from criminal activity and drug abuse.  From creating programs such as the “Books for Kids” program, to securing grants to combat opioid abuse, to serving on various boards and advisory committees focused on combatting drug, alcohol, and tobacco abuse among minors, Lieutenant Bollinger has demonstrated a robust passion for securing bright futures for young people in the community.
  • Officer Justin Brandt’s leadership, passion, and vision resulted in the development of the Hail Mary Project, a program focused on providing positive social, emotional, and academic support to at‑risk students in the Waterloo community.  The young men served by this program all had prior juvenile court involvement and were at high risk to continue to commit crimes and use illegal drugs.  Twenty young men have already been helped by this program, and Officer Brandt has demonstrated a determination to expand the reach of the program to many more students.

Peter E. Deegan, Jr., United States Attorney for the Northern District of Iowa, stated, “Lieutenant Bollinger and Officer Brandt are both worthy recipients of the Enrique S. Camarena award.  These officers are true public servants who recognize that there are certain problems that cannot be solved through criminal prosecution alone.  Sioux City and Waterloo are safer due to their hard work and dedication to the young people in our state.”

Southern District United States Attorney Marc Krickbaum added, “Special Agent Lavastida is most deserving of this prestigious honor. Through his tireless efforts, he positively impacted the lives of two young girls and helped ensure that a dangerous criminal would never terrorize the community again. The Southern District of Iowa appreciates Special Agent Lavastida’s commitment to assisting crime victims.”

“The Enrique S. Camarena award is given each year to law enforcement professionals who personify the strong character and values of our fallen colleague,” Darin Thimmesch, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the DEA Omaha Division said.  “These three individuals truly represent the best of Special Agent Camarena with their passion, commitment and generosity continuously on display in their work and home life. It is an honor to recognize these men for their outstanding investigative efforts that have aided in disrupting the illegal activities of drug trafficking organizations from in and around Iowa.”

The Enrique S. Camarena Award is awarded each year during Red Ribbon Week.  Red Ribbon Week, observed this year from October 23-31, is an alcohol, tobacco, and drug prevention awareness campaign observed annually in the United States and was established in Agent Camarena’s memory.

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