Former Duval County deputy Lino Cuellar’s arrest for murder in the streets of San Diego in February 1892 led U. S. Army Capt. Chase, in the area hunting for Catarino Garza and his men, to charge that Duval County officials were in “open defiance” of federal authority. After an investigation by Texas Ranger J. S. McNeil, the Duval County grand jury ignored charges brought by local lawmen against U. S. soldiers.
It was not Cuellar’s first run in with Duval County law. In 1886, as a Duval County Deputy Sheriff, he was arrested for helping prisoners escape from the Duval County jail. The case remained open until the district attorney refused to prosecute Cuellar, who was serving as Court Bailiff, on the prisoner-escape charge. In the contentious county elections later that year, Jose Munoz was elected Constable in San Diego but was disqualified and Cuellar was named to serve in his place. Cuellar went on to serve as a deputy U. S. Marshall.
But in the first week of February 1892, Chase received word that Cuellar, who Chase considered one of his best scouts, had been arrested in San Diego for murder. Chase expressed full confidence in Cuellar but had no confidence in the local officials whom he charged as being underhanded.”
After investigating the case, Chase learned Cuellar was arrested while he was escorting his prisoner, Jose Angel Hinojosa Pena, through the streets of San Diego. Authorities charged Cuellar with allegedly killing a smuggler three years earlier. The smuggler had been killed “while resisting arrest.” The shooting involved a posse of U. S. Marshals, of which Cuellar was a member. Three Duval County grand juries considered the case, but did not true bill anyone.
|Sheriff John Buckley|
According to Chase, arresting a U.S. marshal and letting his prisoner go free was no less that an “open defiance against U.S. authority.” It would not be the only time that Capt. Chase would make that charge against Duval County Sheriff John Buckley and other county officials. U. S. troops had a running battle with Duval County officials, who Chase believed were sympathetic to Garza.
Chase learned from Pablo Longoria, who had served as a soldier in Garza’s insurrectionist army, that Sheriff Buckley helped Garza in any way he could. Chase and his men were amazed with the support for Garza from Duval County officials. This support went as far as hiring Garza to make speeches for “the party now in power…to control the Mexican vote.” Chase had become convinced that the Duval County power structure was coercing people not to help the U. S. troops.
A Federal Grand Jury eventually indicted Buckley for aiding and abetting Garza in his revolutionary activities. When Duval County residents reelected Buckley, while still under a $2,000 bond for violating U. S. law, Chase became convinced that Garza’s popularity was genuine and ran deep.