On November 12th, 2015  at the onset of the "Heroin and Opioids: A Community Crisis" summit at the University of Iowa College of Public Health Building, Iowa City Police Department Officer David Schwindt and Detective Jerry Blomgren were presented with the Enrique S. Camarena award for their efforts in the reduction and usage of synthetic drugs in the Iowa City area over the course of 2011 through 2014. 

The Enrique S. “Kiki”  Camarena award is presented and sponsored by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and the U.S Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Iowa.   The award, named after fallen veteran DEA agent Camerena , is presented to  law enforcement officers who best exemplify the qualities and principles for which Agent Camarena gave his life namely being a positive role model committed to a healthy lifestyle, making an outstanding contribution in the field of drug awareness and prevention, and going beyond the normal responsibilities of his or her position.

Beginning in the summer of 2011, the Iowa City area began seeing the significant use and distribution of synthetic drugs, commonly referred to as “K-2” and “Bath Salts.”  Shortly after, several groups within the community, most notably the homeless and area youth, began to be adversely affected behaviorally and medically by these previously unknown substances.  At the time, little was known by the medical field or law enforcement about these substances or how to deal with them.  Over the course of the next three years, Officers Schwindt and Blomgren were intricately involved in the long term investigation working with several law enforcement entities to employ a variety of investigative techniques, including controlled purchases, interviews, and search warrants in building cases against the two large retail stores identified as selling synthetic drugs in the downtown Iowa City area.  

On June 26th, 2013, as part of Project Synergy Phase I, this effort aimed at curbing the flow of synthetic drugs, federal search warrants authored by Detective Blomgren and Officer Schwindt, were served on two Iowa City businesses.  In total, 5,622 individual foil packets weighing a total of 18,694 grams (41 pounds) of synthetic drugs were seized along with over $220,000 in proceeds derived from the illegal sale of these synthetic drugs.  On May 7th, 2014, in conjunction with Project Synergy Phase II Officers Blomgren and Schwindt authored  and served a total of ten federal search warrants and three State of Iowa search warrants in which over 100 pounds of synthetic drugs were recovered, along with seven (7) firearms, two (2) vehicles, and over $112,000 in drug related currency.  As a result of this investigation, multiple people have been charged through the federal court system with one recently entering a guilty plea and now facing a maximum of 60 years in federal prison. 

As a result of the extensive efforts put forth by Detective Blomgren and Officer Schwindt, five retail stores in the Iowa City area are no longer providing synthetic drugs to citizens in this community, with three of these stores having stopped business altogether.  Since the latest enforcement efforts on May 7th, 2014, the synthetic drug presence in the Iowa City community has been virtually non-existent.

Detective Blomgren is a 22 year law enforcement veteran currently assigned as the Iowa City Police Department’s representative to the Johnson County Drug Task Force and a deputized Task Force member of the Drug Enforcement Administration.  Officer Schwindt is a 15 year law enforcement veteran and is currently assigned to the downtown Iowa City district with a significant amount of his time dedicated to assisting the homeless population and youth in the downtown area.   

Date of publication

Monday, November 16, 2015