Friends who knew the B.C. pilot who was caught flying a helicopter carrying 150 kilograms of marijuana into the U.S. say he was spirited young man mixed up in the wrong crowd.
Samuel Brown, 24, was arrested on allegations he attempted to drop off the huge load of B.C. bud in Washington state.
He was charged and held at the Spokane County jail, but reportedly hanged himself with bed sheets from his cell on Feb. 27.
Upon hearing the news of Brown's suicide, friends rallied around the Revelstoke, B.C., native, fondly remembering him as a soft-spoken adventure seeker.
"I can't believe that a kid with so much life force would do something like that.... It was shocking," John Buffery said.
Mitch Scott, another friend, said Brown was a popular man who had dreams of starting his own helicopter business.
"He had a lot to live for. He was very popular kid around town. I think he had big dreams of doing really cool things."
All were unwavering in their belief that Brown was not involved with gangs.
"Sam, in my mind, wasn't this felon in the United States," Buffery said. "Sam Brown was a kid we hung out with… who was really fun to be around, and it's shocking, a really sad thing."
Brown's father was too distraught to speak on Tuesday, but he told the Nelson Daily News last week that his son was used as a pawn in the cross-border drug deal and that he took the fall for somebody else.
In total, eight people were arrested and now seven face charges after police broke up the cross-border drug smuggling operation, which used helicopters to fly marijuana and ecstasy to remote U.S. landing pads in exchange for cocaine and cash.
Police seized about 340 kg of marijuana, 83 kg of cocaine and 240,000 ecstasy tablets, plus a significant amount of cash, guns, two helicopters and other equipment, officials from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the RCMP said at a joint news conference in Seattle on Tuesday morning.