Federal prosecutors have charged Jose Mejia-Leyva and Manuel Beltra-Higuera in the death of 34-year-old Chief Petty Officer Terrell Horne III.
Horne, of Redondo Beach, was killed on Dec. 2 when suspected drug smugglers rammed a Coast Guard boat near Santa Cruz Island, officials said. He was second in command of the Halibut, an 87-foot patrol cutter based in Marina del Rey.
The Halibut had been dispatched to investigate a “panga”-style vessel that had fallen under suspicion because it was operating at night without lights. When Horne and his team approached in a smaller inflatable boat, the suspect boat gunned its engine, rammed the Coast Guard inflatable and fled, officials said.
The impact knocked Horne and another Coast Guardsman into the water.
Both were rescued, but Horne suffered a massive head injury caused by a propeller blade and was pronounced dead at the Port Hueneme Pier.
Military aircraft followed the alleged smugglers’ 30-foot craft as it made its way toward Mexico, officials said. Another Coast Guard vessel overtook them as they tried to restart their sputtering engine, and the two suspects were detained, they said.