Two Mexican nationals were charged Monday with the killing of a Marina del Rey-based U.S. Coast Guard chief petty officer who was thrown into the ocean when the search boat he was aboard was rammed by a panga-type smuggling boat near the Channel Islands.
Jose Meija-Leyva and Manuel Beltran-Higuera, whose ages were not immediately available, made an initial appearance in federal court in downtown Los Angeles on Monday afternoon and were ordered to remain jailed without bail pending a Dec. 21 arraignment. They are charged with killing an officer of the United States engaged in his official duties.
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They are accused of killing Chief Petty Officer Terrell Horne III, 34, of Redondo Beach, who died after they used their panga boat to ram the Coast Guard vessel, causing Horne and another officer to fall into the water near Santa Cruz Island, west of Malibu, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
According to the U.S. Attorney's Office, Horne was struck in the head by a boat propeller. The other guardsman—identified as Brandon Langdon in the criminal complaint—suffered a non-life-threatening knee laceration, prosecutors said.
Horne, a 14-year Coast Guard veteran, was pronounced dead early Sunday morning at Port Hueneme. He is survived by a child and pregnant wife.
Horne and Langdon were assigned to the Coast Guard Cutter Halibut, based in Marina del Rey. The Halibut had started tracking the suspected smuggling vessel late Saturday night.
Meija-Leyva and Beltran-Higuera were aboard the panga Sunday morning when it was intercepted by another Coast Guard vessel, and they were detained. Though not mentioned in the criminal complaint, Coast Guard officials told Patch that marijuana was found aboard the panga.
The suspects told authorities that they were transporting gasoline on the panga, according to the criminal complaint. According to Beltran-Higuera, someone approached him and offered him $3,000 to transport a load of gasoline to an awaiting panga in the U.S.
Though they waited at the rendezvous spot for about 20 minutes, the second panga never showed up, Beltran-Higuera said.
—City News Service contributed to this report.