Two held in Coast Guard officer's death

Dec. 4, 2012 at 1:09 PM
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LOS ANGELES, Dec. 4 (UPI) -- U.S. prosecutors charged two Mexican nationals with killing a U.S. Coast Guard officer when they rammed their boat into his, the Justice Department said.

A federal criminal complaint filed Monday in Los Angeles charged the men in the death of Chief Petty Officer Terrell Horne III, who was fatally injured Sunday while Horne and another Coast Guard member were scoping out a suspicious panga boat -- a 30-foot-long open-bowed fishing vessel -- near Santa Cruz Island in the Channel Islands National Park, Justice officials said in a release.

Jose Meija-Leyva, who told investigators he was the panga boat's captain, and Manuel Beltran-Higuera were charged with killing an officer of the United States while the officer was engaged in his official duties.

Horne, 34, of Redondo Beach, Calif., was killed when the panga boat struck the Coast Guard's small rigid hull, inflatable boat, throwing him and the other crew member overboard, the complaint said. The smaller boat had been deployed from a larger vessel to investigate the panga boat, which accelerated once the officers announced themselves, the complaint said. The inflatable boat was rammed despite trying to steer away from the oncoming panga boat.

Horne was struck in the head by a propeller and sustained a traumatic head injury. The other officer sustained a knee laceration.

After striking the Coast Guard boat, the panga boat sped away, the complaint said. Coast Guard aircraft followed the panga boat until it was intercepted about 20 miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border, and Meija and Beltran were detained.

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