411.12 Gomez and Rubio/79
The Acting Secretary of State to the Mexican Chargé (Téllez)
Excellency: I have the honor to refer to your note of July 14, 1931,18 and to earlier correspondence in relation to the deplorable affair of June 7, 1931, at Ardmore, Oklahoma, which resulted in the death of two Mexican students, Mr. Emilio Cortés Rubio and Mr. Manuel Gómez.
The complete stenographic report of the trial of Deputy Sheriff William E. Guess, who admittedly fired the shots which resulted in the death of the two young men, has been given most careful study by this Government, together with all other available documentation in the case. The facts as indicated in the record appear to be substantially as follows:
Early in the morning of June 7, 1931, following the termination of the school year, Mr. Salvador Cortés Rubio and his cousin, Mr. Emilio Cortés Rubio, who had been in attendance at a school in Atchison, Kansas, together with Mr. Manuel Gomez, who had been a student at the Rolla School of Mines in the State of Missouri,19 all being Mexican citizens, left Atchison, Kansas in an automobile belonging to Mr. Gomez, for their homes in Mexico. There were in their possession in the car, the following arms and ammunition:
- 2 .38 colt automatic pistols,
- 1 .41 calibre double barrel derringer pistol,
- 1 .16 gauge shot gun,
- 300 rounds of automatic pistol cartridges,
- 60 rounds .303 savage rifle cartridges,
- 50 rounds .12 gauge shot gun shells,
- 25 rounds .16 gauge shot gun shells,
- 50 rounds .41 calibre derringer cartridges,
- 2 extra magazine clips for a .38 automatic.
At about eleven o’clock in the evening of June 7, their car arrived at a rootbeer stand on Twelfth Avenue, Northwest, in the outskirts [Page 719]of the town of Ardmore, Oklahoma. The two Cortés Rubio boys alighted from the car and partook of rootbeer and sandwiches. Mr. Gomez was suffering from malaria and remained in the car at this time. Shortly after the arrival at the rootbeer stand of the car with the three Mexican lads, another car drew up to the stand containing Messrs. William E. Guess and Cecil Crosby, both Deputy Sheriffs of Carter County, Oklahoma, in which the town of Ardmore is situated. These officers of the law had devoted the day since noon, under orders of the Sheriff of the County, to a search for persons guilty of a recent robbery. This search had taken them over a considerable distance and they had stopped at a number of places.
The Deputy Sheriffs did not get out of their car at the rootbeer stand, but drank rootbeer which was brought to them by an attendant. They were at this time about ten feet distant from the Cortés Rubio boys, whom they observed with the conclusion that they were not the persons for whom they were searching. Mr. Emilio Cortés Rubio and Mr. Salvador Cortés Rubio conducted themselves at the rootbeer stand in a manner beyond criticism. The only comment which it appears the Deputy Sheriffs made to each other concerning the Mexican boys, was that they might be Italians or Spaniards.
The Deputy Sheriffs left the rootbeer stand before the car with the three students departed, and continued in their car for about four blocks east until they came to a filling station at the corner of Twelfth Avenue and E Street, Northwest. They stopped at the filling station and conversed for a few minutes with the man in charge, during which time the car containing the three Mexican students turned from Twelfth Avenue and E Street, and passed the filling station. Very shortly thereafter the officers left the filling station in their car, going over E Street.
A little more than a block beyond the filling station, the car containing the three Mexican boys stopped on the west side of E Street about three feet from the curb. Mr. Salvador Cortés Rubio alighted from the east side of the car, went around to the front of the car, the lights of which continued to function, and a few feet in front of the car, began to urinate, either on the pavement or three or four steps off the pavement, to the west, where there was no sidewalk, but in any event, in full view of passing cars, of which there was a considerable number even at that time of night. This street, which forms a part of highway No. 77 is one of the most traveled roads in the State of Oklahoma.
The Deputy Sheriffs observed the action of Mr. Salvador Cortés Rubio and stopped their car so that the front wheels were approximately in alignment with the rear wheels of the Mexican boys’ car, and a few feet distant therefrom. Deputy Sheriff Crosby alighted, went around the front of the students’ car and reprimanded Mr. Salvador [Page 720]Cortés Rubio for his actions. It appears that both Mr. Salvador Cortés Rubio and Deputy Sheriff Crosby were entirely courteous in their conversation with each other. Mr. Crosby states that he explained his assumed authority in the matter, by stating to Mr. Salvador Cortés Rubio that he was a Deputy Sheriff, and exhibited his badge. In this statement, Deputy Sheriff Crosby is supported by Deputy Sheriff Guess, who says that he heard the former announce himself to Mr. Salvador Cortés Rubio as a Deputy Sheriff. Mr. Salvador Cortés Rubio, however, denies that Mr. Crosby so announced himself or that he exhibited his badge.
After reprimanding Mr. Salvador Cortés Rubio, Mr. Crosby stepped back to the east door of the car and asked the other two boys where they were from. He states that on this occasion also he announced himself as a Deputy Sheriff, and exhibited his badge, but there is no other evidence either for or against this statement. In any event the occupants of the car told Mr. Crosby that they were students returning from their schools to their homes in Mexico. In the course of the conversation Deputy Sheriff Crosby observed that Mr. Emilio Cortés Rubio, who was seated nearest to him, held an automatic pistol in his hand. It does not appear that this pistol was pointed at Mr. Crosby or that either of the occupants of the car made any threatening movements. However, Mr. Crosby drew his own pistol with his right hand and with his left grasped the pistol which was in Mr. Emilio Cortés Rubio’s hand. After some resistance on the part of the latter, Mr. Crosby succeeded in wresting the pistol from his possession.
While Mr. Crosby was talking with the two Mexican boys, Deputy Sheriff Guess backed his car in the rear of the car belonging to the boys and near the curb for the purpose, he states, of removing it from the path of traffic. In this position Mr. Guess could see the left hand or east side of the other car and, of course, observed the movements of Mr. Crosby. It seems too that he heard fragments of the conversation between Mr. Crosby and the two Mexican boys in the car, sufficient to know that the latter had declared themselves as students bound for their homes in Mexico. Mr. Guess states, and naturally there is no other available evidence on this point, that he observed the tussle between Deputy Sheriff Crosby and Mr. Emilio Cortés Rubio for the possession of the pistol and saw Mr. Crosby take the pistol out of the car while holding his own pistol in his other hand. Thereupon Mr. Guess alighted from his car and walked over the ten or twelve feet which separated him from the car of the Mexican boys, coming to the west or right hand side of the latter car to find himself confronted at the door of that car by Mr. Manuel Gómez, who had just alighted therefrom and who was wrapped in a blanket. Mr. Guess, as the only witness on this point, states that Mr. Gómez held in his hand a pistol which was pointed at him and that he thereupon, either [Page 721]after calling upon Mr. Gómez to put up his hands or without saying anything, he did not remember which, but at any rate without anything being said by Mr. Gómez, shot Mr. Gómez twice, as the result of which the latter fell and appears to have died in a very short time.
Mr. Guess further states, as the only witness upon this matter, that when he heard a noise in the car, which up to that time he had believed, from seeing only two occupants thereof who had alighted at the rootbeer stand, to have been occupied by only two persons, he turned to the west or right hand side of the door which was opened, and saw a man turned toward that door extracting from his pocket a pistol. Without addressing this man or being addressed by him, Mr. Guess immediately shot him once, the shot proving fatal within a few minutes.
On the other side of the car Deputy Sheriff Crosby observed Mr. Gómez to alight during or just after the tussle which he, Mr. Crosby, had with Mr. Emilio Cortés Rubio over the possession of the pistol, and of course heard the shots fired but did not see what occurred on the west side of the car. Upon hearing the shots Mr. Crosby, thinking he had disarmed the man in the car of the only weapon in his possession, naturally turned his thoughts to Mr. Salvador Cortés Rubio, who was standing in front of the car and who Mr. Crosby thought might also be armed. Mr. Crosby stepped towards Mr. Salvador Cortés Rubio with the idea of ordering him to put up his hands and it appears that at almost the same time Mr. Guess turned to Mr. Salvador Cortés Rubio and ordered him to put up his hands, which he did.
Mr. Salvador Cortés Rubio stated that he was standing in the glare of the headlights at the time and therefore was unable to see the occurrences at the time of the shooting other than to note the flashes through the windshield. However, he entertains no doubt that Mr. Guess did all the shooting.
Within two minutes after the shooting, two police officers of Ardmore, Messrs. Matthew Alexander and Ott Holden, who had passed the two cars before mentioned just prior to the shooting, and had noticed Crosby standing by the east door in front, parked their car when they heard the shots and went to the sdene of the shooting. At the request of Deputy Sheriff Guess, Mr. Holden took chargé of Mr. Salvador Cortés Rubio, whom Mr. Guess had just searched, but on whom he had found no weapon, while both police officers noted the body of Mr. Manuel Gómez lying between his car and the curb and that Mr. Emilio Cortés Rubio was slumped in his seat with his head leaning against the door of the car in a dying condition.
Deputy Sheriff Guess told Mr. Alexander to look for a pistol about the body of Mr. Gómez, and after making a search Mr. Alexander found a loaded pistol lying by the right side of Mr. Gómez, the safety [Page 722]clutch of which was in a position for the gun to shoot. The position of the body of Mr. Gómez on the pavement between the curb and the automobile immediately following the shooting was also testified to by several other apparently disinterested witnesses who were in the vicinity of the shooting when it occurred and arrived at the actual scene thereof within a very few minutes. These witnesses also testified to seeing the body of Mr. Emilio Cortés Rubio slumped in the car. It further appears that a very few minutes after the shooting but subsequent to, the arrival of eight or ten persons upon the scene, Mr. Guess reached into the car and took therefrom either from the seat or from a pocket of Mr. Emilio Cortés Rubio’s clothing, a Derringer pistol. Again reaching into the car, Mr. Guess extracted from a pocket of the clothing of the deceased boy, a magazine containing ammunition.
Following the shooting Mr. Salvador Cortés Rubio was detained in the police station in Ardmore for the remainder of the night but was released from custody the next day and subsequently remained as a guest in the home of a citizen of Ardmore.
On June 24, 1931, Deputy Sheriff Guess was placed on trial in the District Court of Carter County, State of Oklahoma, for the killing of Mr. Emilio Cortés Rubio, and there appeared for the State of Oklahoma, as the prosecutor on the trial, Mr. Marvin Shilling, County Attorney for Carter County, Mr. John McCain, Assistant County Attorney, Mr. F. M. Dudley, Assistant Attorney General of Oklahoma, Messrs. W. E. [H?] Brown, and J. W. Sprainer [J. M. Springer] of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, the two latter as special representatives of the Governor of Oklahoma, and Mr. M. C. Gonzales of San Antonio, Texas, representing the relatives of the deceased, Mr. Emilio Cortés Rubio and Mr. Manuel Gómez. After hearing sixteen witnesses for the prosecution, including Mr. Salvador Cortés Rubio, and eight witnesses for the defense, including Deputy Sheriffs Guess and Crosby, the jury acquitted Mr. Guess.
The Department is informed that the trial of Mr. Guess on the chargé of murdering Mr. Manuel Gómez and the trials of Mr. Crosby on the charges of murdering both Mr. Gómez and Mr. Emilio Cortés Rubio will take place in the early fall of this year.
I do not feel that any statement of this deplorable incident should be made without inviting the attention of Your Excellency to the attitude of Governor Murray of Oklahoma throughout the entire course of the affair. Governor Murray took every opportunity to express both publicly and privately his profound grief for the unfortunate occurrence, and he showed by his actions his sincere desire to do everything possible, within the limit of his authority, to further the ends of justice and to show the sincerity of his feeling. He instructed [Page 723]the Attorney General of the State to participate in the prosecution, this being the limit to which he legally could go. As an indication of his respect for the deceased and of his high consideration for their nation and for their bereaved relatives, he ordered that the entire funeral expenses and the cost of transportation of the bodies of the two boys to Mexico should be at the expense of the State.
As bearing upon the haste with which Deputy Sheriff Guess acted and also upon the verdict of the jury at his trial, it should be stated that the Department is informed that in the recent past several police officers in that part of Oklahoma in which the town of Ardmore is situated, have been killed by criminals firing from motor cars which those officers have approached. The carrying of arms by private individuals in Oklahoma is unusual and it is not unreasonable to believe that the tragedy occurred from the fact that the Mexican boys were in possession of arms, however adequate the explanation for having those arms might be from the viewpoint of the boys. There can be no question that the fact of the foreign nationality of the boys had no bearing upon the event. That they were Mexican was unknown to the officers at the time of the shooting. Exactly the same unfortunate result would have taken place if the boys had been Americans under similar circumstances. The press of the entire country has commented extensively upon the tragedy and has been unanimous in its expression of sympathy and friendship for Mexico and for the grief stricken relatives of the two boys.
The profound regret of my Government for this tragic occurrence has already been conveyed to Your Excellency, and I take this occasion to add again an expression of the grief and regret with which the whole affair is regarded by my Government and my countrymen.