City honors officer for drug arrest

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On Saturday, March 23, Bonners Ferry police officer Willie Cowell was almost done with his graveyard shift close when his observed a new 2012 Ford pickup without visible registration.

When Cowell stopped the vehicle near the Exxon on South Main Street, the passenger exited the vehicle and attempted to open the rear passenger door.

Concerned that the situation was dangerous,he ordered the passenger to keep his hands in sight as well as keeping the driver under control.

The male subject, later identified as Hector Rivera, seemed nervous. Cowell asked for assistance. Once back-up arrived, Officer Cowell began speaking in detail with both Rivera and the driver, later identified as Barbara J. Willoughby.

Rivera and Willoughby said they were from California. They gave inconsistent stories as to why they were in Bonners Ferry.

Coupled with Rivera not being able to provide a valid proof of identity raised more questions.

Cowell felt that the two were hiding either Rivera’s identity or criminal activity. He also noted that both admitted to traveling about 1,500 miles but they did not have any suitcases or other provisions normally used by travelers.

The officer was given permission by his supervisors to search the vehicle.

A search dog from Border Patrol was brought in and used prior to the search.

The animal alerted on the pickup and Cowell believed narcotics were in it.

While searching the vehicle, the officer located a backpack with three cellophane and foil brick-sized packages inside.

The vacuumed sealed packages contained a thick liquid tar-like substance, later identified as 8 pounds of cocaine.

Rivera and Willoughby were arrested for trafficking a controlled substance.

Rivera also was wanted in connection with a 2004 double homicide in California.

Federal authorities have taken over the trafficking case and California authorities are still investigating the homicide.

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