No one knows better the danger that a tense circumstance can present than police in the United States. Constantly under pressure to control people who are guaranteed rights that provide them a wide latitude of no control, the scenarios that citizens can present range from the mundane to sheer terror, even for a trained professional. With that thought, we continue to reflect on moments in the history of law enforcement we wish we could get back, the sacrifices of those that have paid the ultimate price on our behalf.
Guam is a territory of the United States, and has been since 1898, a spoil of the Spanish-American War. In 1950, it was formally recognized as an unincorporated organized territory, rather than an occupied territory in 1950, after proving a vital staging ground for World War II. Guam is a tropical paradise, with some difficult terrain, and serves a transit hub for US military forces, as well as commercial ships. It is also major tourist hub for citizens of Far East Asia, as well as North America. Guam has a professional, well-organized police force that has made great strides in becoming a leading example in western-style law enforcement. Unfortunately, they have lost several officers in the line of duty.
Officer Juan Mafnas Santos
Officer Juan Mafnas Santos was a five-year veteran of the Guam Police Department, when on July 22, 1996 he located a car that was suspected of involvement in poaching. He followed the vehicle to North Tumon and Route 1, a major intersection in the Tumon District, were resort hotels now stand in modern times. He affected a traffic stop by pulling alongside, and then in front of the vehicle, and inside were three juveniles, and two adults. The details of the incident remain unresolved, but what is known is that Officer Santos was shot in the back, while inside his patrol car. The criminals left the area, and were later apprehended. During interrogation, it was learned that the five individuals we intent on ambushing Officer Santos.
For their cold-blooded murder of Officer Santos, the two adults were sentenced to second degree manslaughter, while the juveniles faced charges in juvenile court, and we can safely assume that none served life for this heinous murder. Officer Santos’ left behind two sons and a pregnant wife. Our most sincere hope is that justice did finally visit this tragedy-struck family. It is clear from this very awful example from the history of US law enforcement, that the criminal justice system failed Officer Santos. His death, and the outcome is as constant of reminder as we can have of the risk officers take every day, and the sometimes-thankless environment they are taking them in.
In memory of Officer Juan Mafnas Santos.