Omaha Division Special Agent Carlos Lavastida awarded Enrique S. Camarena Award
OMAHA, Neb. – DEA Special Agent Carlos Lavastida is one of three law enforcement officers from Iowa presented with the Enrique S. Camarena Award by the DEA and United States Attorney’s Offices for the Northern and Southern Districts of Iowa. Lavastida, Lieutenant Brad Bollinger of the Sioux City Police Department and Officer Justin Brandt of the Waterloo Police Department were recognized for their commitment to reducing drug abuse.
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.
Special Agent Lavastida saved the lives of two young girls who were the victims of sex trafficking within a crack cocaine distribution organization. Through Lavastida’s hard work, passion and dedication, these young girls were provided the services they needed to help 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.
“Special Agent Lavastida’s actions on this case not only led to the arrest and conviction of dangerous criminals, but also helped two young women regain their freedom and lives,” Acting Special Agent in Charge Darin Thimmesch said. “By removing these drug and sex traffickers from the streets of metropolitan Des Moines, Special Agent Lavastida helped improve the safety and well-being of the community.”
Lieutenant Bollinger has demonstrated a lifelong dedication to fighting drug abuse and working with young people. Leading the Department’s Youth Bureau and serving as the Community Policing Coordinator, Lieutenant Bollinger developed and coordinated numerous programming activities aimed at keeping young people involved in lawful activities and away from criminal activity and drug abuse.
Officer 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.
“The Enrique S. Camarena award is given each year to law enforcement professionals who personify the strong character and values of our fallen colleague,” Thimmesch 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.”