“Kiki” Camarena was born in Mexico, June of 1947. As a child, he moved to California with his family and attended Calexico High School. After graduation, he served in the US Marine Core for 2 years. In 1974 he became an officer in the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). His last assignment would be in 1981 at the US Office at Guadalajara. On a quiet day in February of 1985, he was joining his wife for lunch when he was kidnapped, tortured, and murdered by the Mexican Cartel. Enrique was 37 years old. Apparently, he was getting too close to exposing major drug trafficking exploits from Mexico to the States. Enrique’s death inspired a surge in DEA activity called Operation Leyonda. These efforts lead to the arrest of 5 major organized crime lords.
During his service, Enrique received multiple awards to include: Two Sustained Superior Performance Awards, a Special Achievement award. Posthumously he was awarded the highest DEA recognition, the Administrative Award of Honor.
After his death two high school classmates, with Henry Lazano* city Councilman of Calexico California, coordinated with school educators to start the KIKI Camarena club. Students, inspired by his life sacrifice, pledged to stay drug-free. In 1986 Lozano launched a California Statewide coalition with support from the DEA, Elks, Lions and Rotary. Their first effort was Red Ribbon week. This program in October is now organized nationally to solicit the Drug-Free Pledges from youth and adults alike.
The Enrique Camarena award for Law Enforcement was established by the Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks and the Camarena family to recognize and honor law enforcement officers who have made a significant contribution in the field of drug misuse prevention and who personify Agent Camarena’s belief that one person can make a difference. In 2020 Our own Corporal Richard Brookman of the South County Police was nominated for this award. He won the Elk Drug Awareness Program State award and went on to be selected as the National Grand Elk Lodge awardee.
Rick’s work with the middle school children in South County is a motivating story. It is work like his with the youth of our county that can lead to a change in culture. His work is having kids see the impact of drug overdoses and deaths while giving them resources and encouragement to just say NO! These are changes that can make a difference for the future.
*Henry Lozano is the older brother of Ray. In 2019 Ray gave a riveting speech to the Southern High School students. He currently tours the country giving lectures on Drug Awareness.
Information for this blog was ascertained from the DEA and ELK drug Awareness website.
The title photo shows Cpl. Brookman receiving the award from Elk officers, from left: Angela Meyers, State Drug Awareness Program Chair, William Bryan, National drug Awareness Chair, Corporal Rick Brookman, Paul Ryan, Grand Exalted Ruler (National President).