Francisco Pena

Francisco Pena, one of the members of a posse accused of illegal killings but released on a writ of habeas corpus.

I wrote an article detailing the posse of Mexicans headed by Nicholas Olguin, who, in December 1883, followed suspected rustlers into the area north of Clifton (“Vilified man who became a hero,” Eastern Arizona Courier, Aug. 8, 2018).

He and the posse were first accused of murder, having killed two men, but were later released on a writ of habeas corpus. At that time, that writ meant “bring me the body,” and since the deputy sheriff who brought the men in had no idea as to where the murdered men were buried, they went free.

After my further investigation, the men should have gone to prison for murder. I say this because the truth was reported by someone who was there, and it portrays something completely different than the story told by Nicholas Olguin.

Olguin reported that when confronted by him yelling out, “Hold up your hands,” in English and Spanish, the two men started shooting at the posse and had to be killed. In actuality, the posse started shooting while the men had no available weapons. They were building log cabins for their new ranch and were cutting wood when the posse rode up. They were at least 200 yards from their weapons.

In the story told, the Mexicans secured the weapons first, and then opened fire on the two men. At the time of the first firing, the two men started to run toward the cabins and their firearms. Seeing that they were headed off, they ran toward the hills.

Louis M. Clements was soon killed, having been shot through the breast and body. The other man ran almost half a mile, with the Mexicans pursuing him on horseback. They shot him through the body and afterward with a head shot. The two men had about $90 in money, three horses and camping gear, all of which the Mexican posse took. They even took the boots from the dead men.

It was reported that a party of white men left Solomonville, expecting another 30 men to join them from Duncan. These men rode to Clifton to attend the first appearance before the court. Some of the Mexicans had not been located and had bench warrants issued.

In my records search, I was able to ascertain the names of the Mexicans who rode with Nicholas Olguin. They were: Albino Trufillo, Faustino Jaramia, Jose Marques, Jose Castillo, Eusebio Castinada, Francisco Pena, Catarino Martinez, Esteban Espinosa and Corino Barela.

The court proceedings seemed to go on forever. The men were released on a writ of habeas corpus in early 1884, and the indictment was quashed in the May term of the court. They were indicted again in September 1884, but, again, the indictment was quashed.

After that, the whole matter seemed to go away with time. Nicholas Olguin was praised as a good man when he first appeared before a judge. He might very well have been, but sometimes good men do bad things, which I believe to be the case here.

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