File No. 319.1123L25/10.

Minister Price to the Secretary of State.

No. 552.]

Sir: I have the honor to report further with reference to the matter of the prosecution of the Panaman policeman whose arrest, as heretofore reported by me, was accomplished at the instigation of our military authorities shortly after the riot between our soldiers and Panaman policemen and civilians in Colon on April 2 last.

Referring to my despatch No. 469 of April 10, 1915, and the Department’s cables followed by instructions No. 134 of April 23, I enclose a copy of a note and its translation from the Secretary of Foreign Affairs of Panama notifying me that he felt obligated to release said policeman from further custody. This note bore date of June 26, but was not delivered to this Legation until the afternoon of June 28 during the absence of the Secretary of Foreign Affairs of Panama in Colon and while I happened to be away from the Legation in conference with Acting Governor Harding of the Panama Canal.

As soon as I translated said note after its receipt I went at once to the Panaman Foreign Office, and though not finding Señor Lefevre in, I protested to the Subsecretary against the contemplated release of the policeman, and had them call police headquarters. They reported him still in custody. I communicated the matter to Brigadier General Edwards as promptly as possible by telephone, and later again visited the Foreign Office, this time finding Señor Lefevre. I protested to him vigorously against releasing [Page 1204]said policeman. He assured me he was still under arrest, and asked me to withhold a formal note until he could look further into the matter, and promised me that he would continue to be detained and that he would transmit, to me another note to that effect. On June 30 the subsequent note came, stating that his detention would be continued. A copy of same and its translation are also enclosed.

I enclose further a copy of a formal note sent by me in the matter, after consideration. This sets forth at length matters involved herein, and I refer to same and make it a part hereof rather than summarizing its contents.

It seems that the evidence connecting said policeman with the murder of Corporal Langdon is somewhat meager, but that accusing him of the shooting of Private Deloughery and wounding him is quite sufficient to justify not only a prosecution, but to uphold a conviction.

I have [etc.]

Wm. Jennings Price.
[Inclosure 1—Translation.]

The Secretary for Foreign Affairs to Minister Price.

My dear Mr. Minister: I have received a letter, a copy of which I enclose, from the policeman, who, as you know, is under arrest in the police station of Panama by my order as a result of the event which occurred in Colon the 2nd of April last.

Up to the date of the investigation carried on in relation to these events no charge whatsoever has been found against him, for which reason I have no authority to keep him any longer under arrest and I shall see myself obliged to place him at liberty, which fact I bring to your knowledge for courtesy to you and to the military authorities of your Government. Usual orders will be given in all ways that he be not permitted to leave the city until further advice.

I take [etc.]

E. T. Lefevre.
[Subinclosure.]

Sir: With all due respect I address you to explain the following:

The poor state of my health obliged me to tender my resignation from the post of Sub-Lieutenant of the National Police Force, which has been accepted by His Excellency the President of the Republic by resolution No. 63 dated the 22d of this month; but when I tried to return to my house to be cured, I was notified that I could not leave by reason of being arrested by your order.

In view of this I respectfully request you to give orders for my liberation, promising to be at your disposition when you need me.

Your obedient [etc.]

[Inclosure 2–—Translation.]

The Secretary for Foreign Affairs to Minister Price.

My dear Mr. Minister: Referring to my personal letter of yesterday, relating to the matter of the policeman, I should tell you that I have just learned that the personal reports which were submitted to me yesterday and were the cause of my letter, were erroneous and that he is held under arrest not only by my order but also by request of the judge who is investigating the events of April 2 last, in Colon.

[Page 1205]

In view of this, I shall not grant the petition of the said policeman, who will continue to be detained under arrest.

With [etc.]

E. T. Lefevre.
[Inclosure 3.]

Minister Price to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.

No. 196.]

Excellency: I have the honor to refer to the two notes of your excellency bearing dates respectively of June 26 and June 29 last, by the first of which your excellency indicated that you felt yourself obliged to place at liberty the policeman who has been under arrest growing out of the deplorable riot which occurred in Colon on the 2d of April last (which information was stated to be furnished as a matter of courtesy to this Legation and through it to our military authorities), and by the last of which notes your excellency was good enough to communicate that you would refuse to grant the petition of said policeman to be released and that he would be continued to be detained under arrest.

The latter note, following my vigorous protest to your excellency, made as promptly as was possible after the receipt of the first note, brought a sense of relief, for I must tell your excellency again that my surprise was complete and even more than surprise at the receipt of the first note.

I would refer to conferences which took place between your excellency and myself just subsequent to this riot and to my note No. 160 of April 5 last, protesting against the possible release of said policeman and expressing to your excellency the expectation that my Government indulged that a prompt and thorough investigation of said riot would be conducted by the officials of your excellency’s Government and that a just and proper visitation of punishment and redress of grievances and conditions would be had.

I am informed from the investigation conducted by our military authorities into this matter that proof has been produced of a strong and convincing character showing said policeman to be guilty of having shot and wounded Private Deloughery, the American soldier who, while standing on the end of the train awaiting to return to his home, was recklessly shot and badly wounded in the arm; that other testimony has been given indicating that he may also have been the man who cruelly murdered Corporal Maurice Langdon on this same occasion. I am informed further that the representative of your excellency’s Government was present at least when a part of this testimony was given before our military investigation and that the guilty participation of said policeman in certain of the wrongs, of that day, as proved by reputable witnesses, has been recognized and acknowledged by an official representing Panama.

The investigation carried on by our military authorities in this matter, as your excellency knows, was a purely voluntary one for the purpose of rendering assistance to the authorities of your excellency’s Government in ferreting out and bringing to punishment the parties culpable of the grievous misdeeds committed on that occasion. No responsibility has been assumed by our authorities for bringing to justice those responsible for the crimes of that day, because, in fact, no such responsibility could be assumed. The whole affair occurred on Panaman soil and within Panaman jurisdiction and the sole responsibility rests upon the Government of Panama and its authorities to bring the criminals to the bar, to mete out justice and to make amends for those distressing events. The residents of the neighborhood where the troubles of this day occurred are more familiar to Panama authorities than they could be to any one else; there were considerable numbers of the national police force of Panama present during the disturbances and the shootings that took place; and, therefore, in addition to the responsibility that rests upon the authorities of Panama, there also exists the favorable opportunity for them to obtain information and convicting testimony such as are not accessible to anyone else.

More that three months have now passed since this riot and not even one prosecution, it seems, has been instituted by Panama authorities. The arrest of the accused policeman had to be accomplished, or at any rate was accomplished, [Page 1206]by one of the American military organizations, Lieut. R. C. F. Goetz, Aid-decamp of Brigadier General C. R. Edwards; and even in the face of incriminating testimony a rumor became current a few days after his arrest that he was to be released; and now again it would appear that a disposition of leniency toward the accused man exists somewhere which ordinarily might be construed to be out of keeping with the earnestness and diligence which my Government has been relying upon as animating the prosecuting authorities of Panama after the catastrophe which took place in Colon on the day mentioned.

Our military authorities ever since this happening have stood ready and now stand ready to extend such aid as they can to your excellency’s authorities in the conduct by the latter of vigorous prosecutions in this affair; but again I call to the attention of your excellency that the initiative and burden and responsibility in the whole matter rests with your excellency’s Government.

As one of the aids in attempting to place responsibility it was deemed some time ago that it would be helpful if a list could be procured with their corresponding numbers of the police force of your excellency’s Government on duty on the occasion of this occurrence in Colon, and information as to the particular section or district to which the respective numbers thereof had been assigned and were on duty at the time. I must inform your excellency that although four or five requests have been duly made by our American consular representative in Colon for such list and information, they have all been without avail. I deem it proper further to inform your excellency that the rumor has come to our authorities: that the accused policeman has for some weeks been kept in only technical custody and not under actual arrest and custody at all.

In view of all the foregoing I would respectfully solicit from your excellency on behalf of my Government information upon the following points, which for the sake of convenience and clearness are classified serially as inquiries, in the following manner:

  • First. Has any criminal charge been lodged against said policeman or any other person growing out of the riot of April 2, in Colon; and if not, the reason why?
  • Second. What has been the nature of the detention and custody of said policeman since the time of his first arrest, and at what different places has he been since that time, and what is the nature of the custody now being exercised over him?
  • Third. If no criminal charge has been lodged or prosecution begun against said policeman or any one else pursuant to said riot, what is deemed necessary yet to be done before such charge may be entered and such prosecution begun?
  • Fourth. How many Panaman policemen and residents of the vicinities of said disturbances and eyewitnesses thereto have been brought before authorities of your excellency’s Government and made to testify regarding said troubles, and what are the names of them?
  • Fifth. What are the names and numbers of the National Police force serving in Colon at the time of this riot, and where were they assigned to duty and where were they actually on duty at said time?

Your excellency, I am sure, must know how very much these outbreaks, occurring from time to time and now twice within recent months and resulting in each instance in the wounding and maiming of American citizens, have hurt and torn the feelings of my countrymen and have exasperated my Government. Considering the privileges accorded my Government under its treaty existing with Panama, its patience and forbearance under these trying circumstances have been most kindly. Not only the ability of Panama to maintain order, but its proper inclination to do so and certainly its active interest in having same maintained and examples made of those (the infliction of punishment upon whom might serve as a deterrent as well as impose just retribution, as distinguished from, at least, an indifferent attitude in the matter), have now been put to the test as perhaps never before.

With the fullest respect for the motives that animate your excellency, I appeal to the exercise of the energies and powers of your excellency’s office to the intent that such other departments of your excellency’s Government as may be more directly charged with the fulfillment of duties arising out of situations of this kind may be stirred to an activity that may bring forth beneficial results.

I avail [etc.]

Wm. Jennings Price