The West Tampa Police Department in 1919. Standing left to right: Frank Fernandez, A. Morjo, Charles Brown and T. Martinez. Seated, left to right are, Lorenzo Nales; R.A. Acosta, Chief of Police; and Juan Nales. Juan Nales was the only member of the West Tampa Police Department killed in the line of duty. The City of Tampa annexed West Tampa in 1925. Photo courtesy Arsenio Sanchez and La Gaceta Newspaper.
While flipping through a book detailing the history of the Tampa Police Department, something caught Vince Rabelo’s eye. It was a brief mention of Juan Nales, the only member of the West Tampa Police Department to be killed in the line of duty. But when he turned back a few pages to the section that listed officers who died while serving the community, Nales wasn’t listed. So, he went downtown to the Tampa Police Museum on Franklin Street. He scanned a wall bearing the photographs and names of Tampa’s fallen officers. Some of the photos date back to 1895. There was one problem: Juan Nales was nowhere to be found.
In the last days of January 1895, Gonzalo de Quesada boarded a train in New York City headed for Tampa, Florida. He carried with him a message whose impact would be felt around the world.