Police Activity In Humacao





For three centuries a Spanish convict station was kept in Porto

Rico. The unpleasant and undesirable found, not a welcome here,

but a more congenial company than in the home land. Life was easier

because one needed less food and clothes, and they were furnished

by the authorities, anyway. What with the convicts and discontented

slaves, it is a wonder that any sort of comfort or safety existed on

the island, and especially that so much of pleasant social life was

to be found in the cities. Those who knew Porto Rico in those days,

however, say that class distinctions were not sharply marked; that

the master was kind to the slave, and the slave felt as if he were a

member of his master's family, rather than a dependent; that the two

were often seen at the cockpit sitting elbow to elbow, kneeling side

by side in the same church, greeting the same friends or cracking

the heads of the same enemies before the church doors at Epiphany,

and in the humbler homes sitting at the same table.



In those simple times the robber gangs were a great vexation. Killing

was something to grow used to, and a disagreement over cards was

liable to result in having one's head snipped off by a machete; but to

be robbed of one's machete, or of one's jug of rum, or of one's only

trousers, was a sad affliction, and soldiers and police were as active

as Spanish functionaries could persuade themselves to be, in running

down--or walking down--these outlaws. It is said that the detectives

were especially amusing. They would go about in such obvious disguises,

with misfit wigs, window-glass spectacles, and the costumes of priests

or notaries, that a robber could barely keep his countenance when he

met them in the street. The thief always escaped, either through the

incompetence of the officers, or by sharing his profits with them.



But there was one fellow who made such trouble that the police

began to chafe beneath the public criticism. To impugn their honor

did not hurt them much, though they ruffled a good deal under it,

but to threaten them with reduction of pay or removal was a serious

matter; so the chief of the San Juan constabulary bestirred himself,

after a particularly daring robbery had occurred in his bailiwick,

the rogue making off with six thousand dollars' worth of jewelry. He

got safely away from town and was traced to Humacao, where his

footprints were found leading to the door of a small, tumble-down,

deserted house, and none of these prints could be seen with toes

pointing away from it. The chief dismissed his men and prepared to

conduct a siege. He had a dagger, a machete, two pistols, and a gun,

with a box of ammunition. Thus equipped he went to the front door,

gave it a sounding whack with the flat of his machete, and bawled,

"Open, in the name of the law!"



There was no response, so he struck his weapon impatiently against

the panels two or three times and called on the bandit to emerge

and give himself up. Again there was no reply. A bolder move was

necessary. He pushed open the window, crouching down outside, that he

might not become a target for the fellow, who was probably lurking

in the dark interior, and after calling on him for a third time to

appear and go to jail, he thrust his firearms in and began to blaze

in all directions over the floor.



After emptying the pistols and gun he shouted, "If you don't come

out I'll blow you to the bad place, for I have one hundred and fifty

cartridges here, and I can surely shoot you."



All this time the robber had been lying on the floor, just below

the window, very flat and very still. As the chief did not show

himself to take aim, but reached up from his kneeling position and

fired at random, the bold, bad man in-doors began to feel a return

of confidence. He waited until a second fusillade was over, when

he slipped softly through the back door, went around to the front,

waited until a third volley had been fired, when he pounced on the

chief from behind, and in a trice had a stout rope around him. In

a few seconds more he had the astonished and indignant functionary

tied securely to one of the posts of the veranda. Then, calmly taking

possession of the weapons, he lifted his hat, wished the officer a

very good day and a pleasant siesta, and sauntered off to some other

town where the police were still less active.





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