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Thursday, August 28 2014 @ 09:21 AM EDT

Operation To Find Suspects Who Assaulted And Brutalized American Sailors in Bocas - Search Warrants Being Executed Right Now

Boats and SailingBy DON WINNER for - I received information this morning from someone on Isla Colon in Bocas del Toro. People are concerned about the ongoing investigation into the events related to this article: American Couple Brutally Assaulted And Robbed On Their Sailboat Near Isla Colon, Bocas del Toro, Panama. I was told the National Police on the island have supposedly identified the two primary suspects who are allegedly responsible for the attack, but so far no arrests have been made. They have been told by their local law enforcement contacts on the island that supposedly they could not do anything because "the prosecutor is on vacation" so therefore their hands are tied until he returns.

Well, that was enough to cause me to drop what I was doing and hop into my car. I drove over to the Office of the Auxiliary Prosecutor of Panama while I worked the cell phone to get some answers (yes, I was driving while talking on the phone - stuff it.) My initial phone calls confirmed what I was being told by the people in Bocas - yes, it was true that the local prosecutor on Isla Colon had been on vacation for two weeks. And, the Detectives in the Department of Judicial Investigation must have a search warrant issued by a prosecutor before they can enter or search private property. It was also true the local police detectives have identified the two primary suspects.

I was told on the phone they were executing a search warrant at that very moment, and during the search they had discovered some valuables and electronics that might belong to the victims of this crime - things like a digital camera for example. Now they would be showing those recovered items to the victims, to confirm the connection between the victims, their items, and the suspects - and that would form the basis of an arrest. My high ranking DIJ contact told me he expected there would be arrests made in this case soon, possibly by today. With that having been established, I was pulling in to park at the offices of the Auxiliary Prosecutor of the Republic in Ancon.

Dimas Guevara is one of the highest ranking members of the Public Ministry, and he spoke to me in his office. These guys know me from my involvement in past cases, and they know I wouldn't waste their time if it wasn't important. Guevara called Luis Martínez, the First Superior Prosecutor of the Third Judicial District, based in David, Chiriqui. In Panama jurisdictions and responsibilities within the Public Ministry are divided by geographically, and in this case the local prosecutor (called the "Personería") is directly subordinate to him. So, Martínez called the local prosecutor for an update.

First of all, in response to the allegations that nothing was being done because the local prosecutor was out on vacation, Martínez said that wasn't true, because when someone goes on vacation they always appoint a temporary replacement to cover the desk. Well, true, that actually happened. What's more, it collaborates what my sources in the DIJ were telling me. The problem was the person who had been put in charge temporarily didn't want to do anything, and decided it would be better to wait until the "real" prosecutor came back from vacation. OK, whatever. Moving along...

What really matters is that as of this morning the "real" prosecutor was now back in the saddle. Martínez called him directly and got an update from the field. When they spoke, the prosecutor was in process of executing a search warrant on the house of one of the primary suspects. This confirms what I had already learned from by police sources. They have, in fact, identified the two primary suspects. And Martínez said they are working to tie all of the information together, and he expected there would be arrests in this case soon, most likely by the end of the day.

I spoke for some time with Dimas Guevara - he's a very busy man but if felt like he wanted to talk for awhile. I explained that this case in particular - the brutal and violent attack against two American sailors in the middle of the night - is being talked about widely among the community of sailors and cruisers, both in Panama and internationally. I explained to Guevara this case in particular will give Panama a "black eye" among this community. Cruisers are very concerned about their personal safety, and Guevara recognizes the importance of catching the bad guys, locking them up, and obtaining justice for the victims.

Anyway, I don't know if I actually accomplished anything beyond finding out some additional information and details to report in this article. It seems like the prosecutor was already back, the search warrant was already being executed, and right now (as I write this) there is a task force comprised of National Police officers, DIJ detectives, and Public Ministry officials searching for the two suspects. They are conducting and "operation" to try to find them, and to take them into custody. That was the very last update I received, about an hour ago.

Obviously I'll continue with updates as more information becomes available. At the very least, everyone at the higher levels of both the Public Ministry, the National Police, and the DIJ are "spun up" on this case - so the guys down at the lower, local level on Isla Colon are not working in a vacuum (any more.) Woof.

Copyright 2012 by Don Winner for Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Salud.

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