Los Angeles, CA, United States (4E) – Two Mexican nationals have been accused Monday of killing a 34-year-old U.S. Coast Guardsman, who died of a severe head injury after his boat slammed into an alleged smuggler’s vessel off the Southern California coast.
In a news release, the U.S. attorney’s office for the central district of California said the suspects, Jose Meija-Leyva and Manuel Beltran-Higuera, were charged with the death of a U.S. government officer, Chief Petty Officer Terrell Horne III.
Officials said two coast guard officers were thrown overboard early Sunday morning during a pursuit of a boat they believe was transporting drugs, and Horne, who was seriously injured, was later pronounced dead.
The other crew member suffered minor injuries while two others on board the boat were not hurt.
Authorities revealed the Coast Guard saw an unlighted vessel cruising and a patrol cutter, Halibut, was dispatched.
The cutter then sent a smaller, inflatable boat to check but the suspicious vessel quickly accelerated and fled as the other boat approached, knocking two officers into the water.
According to court documents, about four hours after the incident, the boat was found about 20 miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border.
Coast Guard officers ordered the vessel’s occupants, at gunpoint, to leave the boat but they declined to obey. In their third attempt to detain the suspects, a Coast Guard officer used a pepper-spray on the suspects before they could be arrested.
The court document stated the men entered the United States illegally from Mexico.
Investigators said Meija-Leyva informed them he was bringing gasoline to some lost friends north of Los Angeles while Beltran-Higuera admitted being offered $3,000 to transport gas to a boat located off the U.S. coast.