Friday, February 12 , 2016, 7:57 pm | Fair with Haze 57º

Two Men Charged in Death of Coast Guard Officer

By Giana Magnoli, Noozhawk Staff Writer | @magnoli |

Federal prosecutors have charged two Mexican nationals in connection with the death of a Californian Coast Guard officer.

Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Terrell Horne holds his son during a Christmas cruise onboard the Cutter Halibut in this undated photograph. Horne was killed early Sunday when his boat was rammed by suspected drug smugglers near Santa Cruz Island, according to the Coast Guard. (Contributed photo)
Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Terrell Horne holds his son during a Christmas cruise aboard the Cutter Halibut in this undated photograph. Horne was killed Sunday when his boat was rammed by suspected drug smugglers near Santa Cruz Island, according to the Coast Guard. (Contributed photo)

Jose Meija-Leyva and Manuel Beltran-Higuera both face charges of killing an officer of the United States while that officer was engaged in his official duties.

Chief Petty Officer Terrell Horne III, 34, of Redondo Beach was thrown from his U.S. Coast Guard vessel when men operating a panga boat rammed into it. Horne sustained traumatic head injuries from hitting a propeller and was later pronounced dead by paramedics, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Horne was a 14-year veteran of the Coast Guard, serving at the Emerald Isle, Humboldt Bay and Charleston stations and aboard USCGC Dallas. He is survived by his wife and young son.

Thom Mrozek, public affairs officer for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, said both Meija-Leyva and Beltran-Higuera appeared in federal court in Los Angeles on Monday afternoon and will be held without bail until their Dec. 21 arraignment, when they are expected to enter pleas.

Meija-Leyva is being represented by deputy federal public defender Jeffrey Rosanswank, and Beltran-Higuera is being represented by Stephanie Ames.

The criminal investigation is being conducted by the Los Angeles Border Enforcement Security Task Force in San Pedro, which investigates the smuggling of narcotics and illegal aliens into the United States.

The affidavit was written by Coast Guard Investigative Services Special Agent Joel Widell, who works with the task force. He wrote that smugglers will often bring drugs or illegal aliens into the country by boat and unload into waiting vehicles at meeting spots.

Around 1:20 a.m. Sunday, the Marina del Ray-based Coast Guard Cutter Halibut was investigating a 30-foot, open-bowed panga boat suspected of smuggling narcotics or illegal aliens when the four officers aboard got into a small, rigid hull inflatable boat to get closer. They had already found a recreational vessel with extra fuel containers — perhaps a refueling station for smuggling operations — near the island, initially spotted by a Coast Guard airplane.

When the officers approached the boat in Smuggler’s Cove and identified themselves as law enforcement, the men operating the panga boat rammed their boat into the small Coast Guard vessel, which caused Horne and another man to fall overboard. Other officers tried to avoid the collision, and one fired a service weapon at the oncoming panga boat, according to authorities.

The panga boat crew fled the scene and was followed by a Coast Guard airplane until the crew was intercepted around 5 a.m. by a Coast Guard vessel 20 miles north of the Mexico-United States border. The two men were held at gunpoint, and the driver was pepper-sprayed to stop him from driving the panga boat away from authorities, according to the affidavit.

Authorities found a satellite phone, knife, handheld GPS and cell phone on the panga boat, but there wasno mention of drugs or other contraband.

Meija-Leyva waived his Miranda rights and said he was captain of the boat, and he was taking gasoline to some lost friends north of Los Angeles, according to the affidavit.

Beltran-Higuera said a man offered him $3,000 to transport a load of gasoline to a waiting panga boat in the United States, and the captain was later identified as Mejia-Leyva, the man with whom he was arrested. They were going north to transfer fuel to another panga boat, he told authorities.

In July, Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown and Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, met with the U.S. Coast Guard and Homeland Security to ask for federal help with the problem of maritime smuggling. At the time, Brown said that 16 boats had been found ashore within the last year, mostly abandoned but with evidence of carrying contraband.

Panga boats are typically 30 to 35 feet long, open watercrafts with multiple outboard motors which have become increasingly popular to smuggle contraband to the United States from Mexico. Later that month, federal agents found a panga boat off the Gaviota Coast and arrested 13 men. Border Patrol agents also seized 5,000 pounds of marijuana.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Panga Boat - Death of USCG Officer - Complaint

» on 12.04.12 @ 09:53 PM

They should all be publicly executed.  RIP CPO Horne.

» on 12.05.12 @ 12:23 AM

Concerned California Citizens should take careful note that the panga boats are primarilly used to smuggle marijuana, a plant, that has been legalized in CA for medicinal use.

Washington and Colorado voters legalized marijuana for recreational use in their respective states last month.

Marijuana being smuggled into California is as absurd as oranges being smuggled into Florida.
Mendocino County alone could supply the world with marijuana if the Feds would just respect the 9th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

I’m sorry the CG sailors were killed but as Federal officers they were victims of tryannical U.S. Government policies that set the stage for this tragedy. Mexicans were smuggling marijuana because the U.S. Government has made it worth their effort by interfering in the market and creating a grotesque condition of unmet supply for a growing demand by Californians and other Americans.

Smuggling is illegal and the Mexicans were clearly breaking the law in doing so but along with the tragedy of the deaths is that the plant the Mexicans were smuggling is Constitutionally legal as described in the 9th Amendment.

» on 12.05.12 @ 01:44 AM

Woowoo: Your paranoid and obsessive preoccupation with the issues surrounding the 9th Amendment to the Constitution makes me wonder if you have had one too many bong loads.  Save some Fritos for the rest of us normal folks who don’t have to escape life by taking narcotics.

» on 12.05.12 @ 03:24 AM

@woowoo. Your point became moot when the smugglers chose to aim their boat at the USCG and accelerate killing a law enforcement officer

» on 12.05.12 @ 04:00 AM

@interloper—except for one cup of coffee in the morning, I don’t use drugs. I do, however, support the U.S. Constitution including the 9th Amendment that says in fancy language that drugs, all drugs, are legal.
I’m also off fritos or any other junk food, no salt, no sugar, no wheat, no alcohol, no meds, no drugs(except one cup of coffee). Fruits, vegetables, nuts and moderate portions of protein, usually cod and tofu mixed with moderate daily exercise and using a bicycle as main mode of transportation and I feel great.

@SBA123—No, my point became amplified when they aimed and killed. Those Mexicans were there because an unnatural economic condition was created ILLEGALLY and UNCONSTITUTIONALLY by the tyrannical U.S. government. Drugs are legal! The laws prohibiting drugs are illegal because they’re unConstitutional because they violate the 9th Amendment.
Sure, the Mexicans committed murder directly but the ignorance and cowardice of bimbo tyrant Lois Capps and other government thugs led to the sailors death.

» on 12.06.12 @ 04:31 AM

Low life Mexican illelgals who laugh at the Democrats who allow the lose borders..

No respect for the U.S.

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