File No. 319.1123L25/55
Minister Price to the Secretary of State
Panama, February 19, 1917.
Sir: I have the honor to report that at last on Friday afternoon the trial of Carlos Nufiez, referred to in my despatch No. 1164 of November 13, 1916, charged with the murder of Corporal Langdon in the Colon riot of April 2, 1915, took place before the Superior Criminal Court sitting in this capital. The jury after considering the case about ten minutes brought in a verdict of acquittal which, a local newspaper states “was received with great enthusiasm by the waiting crowd”.
I advised Brigadier General C. R. Edwards, Commanding General of the Canal Zone troops, duly of the date of the trial and Major Herbert A. White, Judge Advocate on his staff, was present.
The verdict was in no sense a surprise to us; in fact, no other result was expected as set out in my despatch No. 907 of April 24, 1916,3 to which I make special reference.
The satisfaction has been obtained, however, of the prosecution of at least one man involved in one of the several riots that have taken place between our soldiers and the Panaman police.
We feel convinced that this Panaman policeman had a guilty connection with the fateful event of that day and that it is very likely that he is the man that shot Corporal Langdon but identification of him as such was not forthcoming. He was identified by one witness as heretofore reported by me as being seen shooting at the train, which carried our soldiers on their return from the baseball game at Colon on the day of the riot.
Nuñez is the man whom Lieut. R. F. C. Goetz, then an aide on the staff of the commanding general, arrested on the evening of the riot and turned over to the Panaman authorities. It seems, however, that when [Page 1158]the witnesses were examined the identification which had been counted upon could not be obtained. This might have been possible if the Panaman authorities had exhibited proper energy and cooperation in the investigation of the riot, but it will be remembered by the Department that in spite of all the persistency and insistence of which we were capable it was not possible to get the Panaman authorities to present a number of their suspected police for identification by our soldiers until more than a year had elapsed after the riot. It is always difficult, of course, to single out the criminally guilty in the midst of the excitement of a riot. It was additionally difficult in this case because of the Panaman police wearing uniforms all alike. Considering these things and the lapse of time between occurrences and the presentation of the police before our soldiers for identification the improbability of successful identification is easily understood.
A short investigation was held by the Panaman authorities immediately succeeding the riot. A much fuller investigation by our military authorities with reference to the soldiers involved in the riot was conducted about the same time. However, the Panaman authorities refused or at least failed to take properly energetic steps in this matter and as far as effective cooperation and assistance with our military authorities, such was not possible to be obtained until after more than a year had passed. This furnishes, perhaps, a very tenable ground, in addition to others, for complaint on our part against the Panaman Government and to serve as a basis for damages against the Panaman Government. The unceasing repetition of demand on my part for action from the Panaman Government appears in the many notes found in the files of this case.
I have [etc.]