Police chief fires cop based on warrant; Awa says he is innocent and being treated differently from other cops accused of crimes

Brian Awa is shown with his work K-9 inspecting packages for drugs on January 19, 2018.

Brian Awa has been fired by the chief of police based on allegations made against him in a 2020 application for a federal search warrant. The former drug k-9 handler, who has been on unpaid medical leave since the Calvo administration, wrote to police chief Stephen Ignacio two days before his firing took effect, informing him the accusations made in that warrant application were never sustained or proven to be true, and that Mr. Ignacio has allowed active duty police officers accused of crimes in other federal cases to keep their jobs.

If Mr. Awa appeals his termination to the Civil Service Commission, he may be able to win back his job on an argument many before him have prevailed on: Management’s punishment of one employee, where others did not receive corresponding discipline.

In a three-page letter responding to a February 6, 2024 Notice of Proposed Adverse Action against the former police officer, Mr. Awa did not mention which officers or what cases fit the disparity he claims. However, other federal court warrants that were unsealed months prior to the one involving Mr. Awa also named active police officers and allegations of their involvement in criminal activity.

No federal indictments ever came down on any of those officers. Neither was Mr. Awa ever indicted.

Stephen Ignacio

“To date I have been discriminated against, treated unfair[ly] and different[ly] from others,” Mr. Awa wrote on February 15 to Mr. Ignacio. “I understand that you may feel pressured to uphold the allegations against me because you made premature and inflammatory statements to the media.”

The statements Mr. Awa are referring to are from interviews Mr. Ignacio gave following Kandit’s revelation of the allegations in the federal search warrant application. Mr. Ignacio – prior to the completion of an internal affairs investigation – said Mr. Awa did not deserve to be a police officer. It was the first time the police chief had ever made a prejudicial statement about one of his officers before or even after IA findings, despite the high numbers of allegations of police misconduct brought to public light during his tenure.

“It was quite inappropriate to make comments that were prejudicial in nature and apparently predetermined as to my guilt,” he wrote to Mr. Ignacio in that February 15 letter.


A Homeland Security Investigations special agent on March 9, 2020 applied for a federal search warrant to retrieve Mr. Awa’s phone records at Docomo. In the agent’s statement of probable cause to the judge, he made allegations against Mr. Awa that Awa was a major drug trafficker. The allegations were based on statements by two cooperating federal drug felons and on text messages between Mr. Awa and one of those informants.

“On December 18, 2019, a Source of Information (SOI) was interviewed by HSI agents,” the warrant application states. “The SOI told agents that on or about May or June 2019, the SOI witnessed the consignment of two pounds of methamphetamine aka “ice” by AWA to James DAMASO. The delivery of the two pounds of ice took place at AWA’s residence in Kaiser Dededo, Guam. Present with Brian AWA was Jovan BRADBURY who was well known to the SOI.”

Three months earlier, the Drug Enforcement Agency arrested now-felon Brian Chan after busting him with 170 gross grams of meth, and he “immediately cooperated with DEA agents and gave information relating to Brian AWA. CHAN claimed that he was a distributor of methamphetamine for Brian AWA from the period of late 2018 to January 2019. CHAN claimed that he distributed about 120 grams of ice for AWA and had delivered drug proceeds directly to AWA at AWA’s residence at #32 Tulip Court Carlos Heights Tamuning, Guam. CHAN claimed that he had also smoked ice with AWA at AWA’s residence and was offered by AWA to distribute pound quantities of methamphetamine which CHAN turned down.”

In an exclusive interview with Kandit, Mr. Awa said he knows that allegation to be a complete falsehood because he does not know and cannot ever recall meeting Brian Chan. The GPD NPAA referenced the Kandit interview and Mr. Awa’s admission that he did not know Mr. Chan. Mr. Awa suspects Chan used Awa’s name in order to satisfy his federal agent handler that he was cooperating.

Using the information Mr. Chan provided, the same HSI special agent subpoenaed Docomo phone records of several targets of investigation, all showing activity allegedly with Mr. Awa through the cell phone linked to an account under he and his girlfriend’s name at Docomo.

Then on January 22, 2020, the HSI special agent participated in an operation related to the possible deportation of Philippine citizen Jovan Bradbury, who had a felony drug conviction in local court and was thus subject to deportation. Instead, the special agent advised Mr. Bradbury of his right to remain silent, Mr. Bradbury waived his rights, and the defendant began to talk and cooperate with the federal government.

“BRADBURY told HSI agents that on or about the early part of 2018, he was recruited by Brian AWA to sell ice. BRADBURY knew that Brian AWA was a police officer with GPD, but heard rumors on the streets that AWA was a dirty cop. He was initially supplied by AWA with gram quantities of ice to sell and eventually moved up to selling ounce quantities,” the warrant application states. “BRADBURY confirmed that AWA supplied James DAMASO with ice and had personally delivered pound quantities of ice to DAMASO at the direction of Brian AWA.”

Mr. Awa said he knew Mr. Bradbury because he arrested him “three or four times” on drug charges. He also knew Mr. Bradbury through the local cockfighting circuit. Awa said he suspects Bradbury found himself in a bind after being threatened with deportation and thought perhaps Bradbury “had it out” for him.

Police corruption

Mr. Awa’s claim of differential treatment in his firing would not be the first time he would be fighting GPD for the agency’s treatment of him.

Mr. Awa said this story goes back to 2016, when Adelup – he says – directed GPD’s top brass to get rid of Awa.

“First of all, I’m not a drug user and I’m not a drug dealer,” Mr. Awa said. “All of this is a culmination of events that started back during the Mandana days when I said no to all of the bad things happening then.”

Mr. Awa said he originally was recruited to be part of the Mandana Drug Task Force when it was created by Ray Tenorio who then was lieutenant governor and had oversight of GPD. “They needed me because I was the K-9 handler of a drug-detection dog,” he said.

At first, he said, the operations were by the book, until they weren’t. Mr. Awa provided detail to Kandit about the crimes he witnessed that other police officers committed. He provided the detail on embargo, which means Kandit has agreed not to publish those details until a later dat.

Mr. Awa said he reported the illegal activities to Ken Mantanona, who was the division chief over the Mandana Drug Task Force. “I told him I wasn’t going to go along with these things,” he said. That’s when he was paid a visit by Ken Mantanona’s cousin, retired police officer John “Boom” Mantanona.

“Boom threatened me,” Mr. Awa said. “He was a powerful guy.”

Boom Mantanona in 2019 was indicted in a massive police corruption and witness tampering case, which was quickly sealed up and has been continued every three months since. It is believed he pleaded out in the case, and he is helping the federal government against other criminal targets.

Ken Mantanona did not respond to Kandit’s request for comment.

According to court documents in the federal cases against convicted drug traffickers Audrey “Redd” Wolford and Eric Aponik, both Boom and Ken Mantanona were involved in a conspiracy with drug traffickers to use the Mandana Drug Task Force against their competition. Ken Mantanona no longer is with GPD.

Then, on October 31, 2016, Mr. Awa was called from his shift to his supervisor’s office, where he was informed he was under investigation on allegations he was stealing drugs from drug dealers and using drugs. A November 1, 2016 letter from then-police chief Joseph “JI” Cruz to Mr. Awa informed him of his placement on administrative leave pending an internal affairs investigation into the matter.

A separate document – Reasonable Suspicion / Cause Determination Checklist – stated “Intelligence information was received alleging that Officer Awa was possibly stealing and using narcotics.” The checklist showed no abnormal behavior was observed, that Awa was not known to have a “history of documented performance problems,” and that he showed no physical signs of drug abuse.

Mr. Awa told Kandit he does not know why false information was alleged against him, but suspected he was being punished for trying to report the illegal activities of other police officers connected to the Mandana Drug Task Force.

“The allegations crushed me emotionally,” Mr. Awa recalled of the October 31, 2016 meeting with his supervisor.

Documents Mr. Awa provided show he was drug tested and passed his drug test the same day his administrative leave began. He was interviewed by internal affairs officers on December 8 that year. He said he was polygraphed about drug use and trafficking and passed the polygraph. On December 20, 2016, Mr. Cruz wrote to Mr. Awa, “I am pleased to inform you that the Internal Affairs investigation into the incident failed to substantiate the report made regarding you.” He was issued a letter of clearance.

In his February 15, 2024 letter to the police chief, Mr. Awa reminded him he was cleared of the 2016 allegations, and that he passed multiple polygraph tests.

By then, however, the incident had taken its toll on Mr. Awa’s emotional health, he said. He began to use his sick leave, and in 2017 he was diagnosed with work-related Chronic Post Traumatic Stress Disorder at American Medical Center. He received the same diagnosis from a doctor at Guam Medical Care, and also received treatment at Guam Behavioral Health and Wellness Center.

“He has been continually following up to present,” Dr. Geoffrey Gage wrote to the GPD on May 18, 2020. “In my medical opinion as his Primary Care Physician, his established mental health condition is probably chronic in nature for which he will need continuing mental health management. He is also seeing the possibility of disability for this condition.”

“It sounds crazy, but I was scared to go to work,” Mr. Awa said. “That place is a dangerous place when they’re attacking you and I still don’t even know why they were attacking me except that I was speaking up.”

Medical documents Mr. Awa provided to Kandit from AMC confirm his continuous care under doctors and social workers for Chronic PTSD.

Kandit also interviewed his psychologist, Dr. George Kallingal, who received permission from Mr. Awa to speak with us. Dr. Kallingal confirmed the diagnosis, that is was work related, and that he believes Mr. Awa is not a drug user.

Appeal likely

The investigative findings against Mr. Awa were based almost entirely on the federal search warrant application, with the remaining portion of the report involving Mr. Awa’s interview with IA. According to that report, Mr. Awa provided the same information and concerns he gave to Kandit during his exclusive interview with us, and added more information.

The report documents Mr. Awa’s grievance of unfair treatment and that “there is no due process here,” referring to Mr. Ignacio’s pre-findings public statements against Awa. Mr. Awa made damning allegations against other police officers – including the police chief – in his documented interview. Kandit will save that for another story.

Mr. Awa’s termination went into effect February 17. He is expected to appeal his case to the CSC.

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