Dennis N. Freelove, a military veteran who fought the war on drugs as a dedicated California narcotics enforcement agent for 30 years, died July 11 of colon cancer, his family said. He was 67.
Mr. Freelove joined the state Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement in 1970 after serving as a criminal investigator in the Army. He climbed the ranks as a special agent and supervisor as the manufacturing and trafficking of illegal drugs including crack cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana escalated in Northern California during the 1980s and 1990s.
"Dennis brought energy, intellect and integrity to the job," said Bob Mannen, former chief of the state Bureau of Investigation. "He was always eager to work, to take on extra assignments and to do the extra work that had to be done in investigations."
Mr. Freelove was well known in local, state and federal law enforcement circles as a leader of multiagency groups. He held top positions with the Sacramento Clandestine Lab Task Force, the Yolo Narcotics Enforcement Team and the Special Investigations Unit in Placer County.
He participated in stakeouts, raids and investigations of makeshift drug labs, dealers and users of illegal substances ranging from crank to prescription painkillers and steroids. He also trained rookie officers in drug investigation procedures.
Despite the long hours and dangers of the job, Mr. Freelove was motivated by a strong sense of purpose and belief in right and wrong, said his wife, Ann. He was most concerned about the impact of narcotics on innocent children, including many whom he handed over to protective services agencies after busting their parents on drug charges.
"One of the things that made him think it was time to retire was when he arrested a 16-year-old girl," his wife said. "He had arrested her mother years earlier and he had arrested her grandfather years before that."
Dennis Neal Freelove was born in 1945 in Twin Falls, Idaho, and grew up in Marysville after his father took a job as the civilian fire chief at Beale Air Force Base. He graduated from Marysville High School in 1963 and earned a criminal justice degree at Sacramento State. He served in the Army's criminal investigation division in Germany.
He retired from the Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement in 2000 and spent 11 years as a compliance inspector for the state Department of Justice. He was a longtime member and former Region 2 chairman of the California Narcotic Officers' Association.
Mr. Freelove was married to his wife, a retired high school teacher and librarian, for 44 years and had a son. He was a Folsom resident for the last 32 years.
At 6-foot-3 and 250 pounds, he was a formidable lawman with a fourth-degree black belt in karate. At home, he was a devoted family man who enjoyed participating in martial arts with his son.
"He was a very quiet, thoughtful person," his wife said. "He was very Zen in his approach to life."