The United States has protested the beating and threatened killing of a U.S. sailor in Panama by three policemen, one of whom held a gun near the American's head and fired it, the U.S. military confirmed Friday.

"The U.S. forces find this incident to be despicable," said a letter written by Lt. Col. Robert Perry, co-chairman of the joint American-Panamanian committee created to deal with such incidents, and delivered last month to his Panamanian counterpart, Lt. Col. Aquilino Sieriro Murgas.Navy Petty Officer Mike Nieves, serving with the U.S. Southern Command in Panama, was detained by three Panamanian highway policemen Nov. 13 for allegedly parking in a no-parking zone at Panama City Airport, the letter said.