Federal prosecutors charged two Mexican nationals today in connection with the killing of a US Coast Guardsman. The incident occurred near Santa Cruz Island on Sunday morning.
Today two Mexican nationals were charged in US court. The LA Times reported:
Federal prosecutors charged two Mexican nationals in connection with killing U.S. Coast Guardsmen Terrell Horne III after they allegedly rammed his vessel with a drug-smuggling panga boat.
The two men, boat captain Jose Mejia-Leyva and Manuel Beltra-Higuera, are expected to appear in court Monday afternoon to face charges that they killed a federal officer. Horne, 34, of Redondo Beach, was killed Sunday after suspected smugglers in a panga rammed his vessel off the Ventura County coast. He died of severe head trauma, officials said.
The Redondo Beach resident was second in command of the Halibut, an 87-foot patrol cutter based in Marina del Rey. Authorities said they could not recall a Coast Guard chief petty officer being killed in such a manner off the coast of California.
Early Sunday morning, the Halibut was dispatched to investigate a boat operating near Santa Cruz Island, the largest of California’s eight Channel Islands. The island is roughly 25 miles southwest of Oxnard.
The boat, first detected by a patrol plane, had come under suspicion because it was operating in the middle of the night without lights and was a “panga”-style vessel, an open-hulled boat that has become “the choice of smugglers operating off the coast of California,” said Coast Guard spokesman Adam Eggers.
The Coast Guard cutter contains a smaller boat, a rigid-hull inflatable used routinely for search-and-rescue operations and missions that require a nimble approach. When Horne and his team approached in the inflatable, the suspect boat gunned its engine, maneuvered directly toward the Coast Guard inflatable, rammed it and fled.