2 Mexicans charged in death of Coast Guard officer

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LOS ANGELES — Federal prosecutors filed charges against two Mexican citizens Monday in the death of a Coast Guard chief petty officer who died after the boat he was on was rammed by a suspected drug smuggling boat over the weekend.

Chief Petty Officer Terrell Horne IIIChief Petty Officer Terrell Horne III suffered a fatal head injury early Sunday morning while he and other Coast Guardsmen were attempting to stop a  Mexican panga  near Santa Cruz Island in the Channel Islands National Park.

A criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court charges Jose Meija-Leyva  and Manuel Beltran-Higuera with killing Horne while he was engaged in official duties. According to the complaint, Meija-Leyva told investigators that he was the captain of the panga.

The two defendants were scheduled to appear in federal court in Los Angeles Monday afternoon.

Horne, 34, of Redondo Beach, 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.

As Horne and his team approached the panga in a rigid-hull inflatable boat launched from the Halibut, the panga accelerated and rammed the inflatable, according to prosecutors. The impact knocked Horne and another crewman into the water. Horne suffered a traumatic head injury and was pronounced dead when the Halibut returned to Port Hueneme at 2:21 a.m.

The panga fled after the collision, but it was followed by a Coast Guard aircraft and intercepted about 20 miles north of the Mexican boarder by another Coast Guard boat, according to the federal complaint.

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