Killing shows smugglers' brazenness
By The Associated Press
Published: Monday, Dec. 3, 2012, 8:42 p.m.
SAN DIEGO — The killing of a Coast Guardsman whose crew was chasing a vessel suspected of being laden with drugs appears to be the latest example of how smugglers are venturing farther north in a game of cat-and-mouse along the California coast.
Two Mexican nationals — Jose Meija Leyva and Manuel Beltran Higuera — were charged on Monday in Los Angeles with killing a federal officer while the officer was on duty.
Chief Petty Officer Terrell Horne, 34, died on Sunday upon being struck in the head by the suspect vessel near the Channel Islands, west of Los Angeles and about 180 miles northwest of the U.S.-Mexico border.
At least six people aboard suspected smuggling vessels have been killed since the 2010 fiscal year.
The Halibut, an 87-foot patrol cutter based in Marina del Rey, was dispatched when the suspect vessel was spotted traveling without lights by a Coast Guard C-130 plane near Santa Cruz Island, the largest of the eight Channel Islands, the Coast Guard said. Authorities sent a helicopter from San Diego.
The cutter contains a rigid-hull, inflatable boat that is about 16 to 18 feet long, said Coast Guard spokesman Adam Eggers. The smaller boat is routinely used on missions that require more speed and agility than the cutter can deliver.
As Horne and his team approached in the inflatable boat, the suspect vessel gunned its engine, knocking Horne and a second crew member into the water, Eggers said. The other crew member was treated for minor injuries and two others aboard the inflatable boat were unharmed.
Eggers said waiting for the vessel to make land would have introduced other risks and logistical challenges. The Coast Guard's mandate, he said, is to interdict at sea.
“As of right now, there are absolutely zero questions about whether they followed proper protocol,” Eggers said.
Authorities described the suspect vessel as a “panga,” which are known in Mexico as old, single-engine wooden vessels typically about 25 feet long. Eggers declined to describe the suspect vessel or say if it contained any drugs.
In growing numbers, smugglers are turning to California seas to bring people and drugs to the United States from Mexico.
The number of Border Patrol agents on land has doubled in the past eight years and hundreds of miles of fences and other barriers have been erected, driving smugglers to the Pacific Ocean.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Wyatt Earp gun sells for $225K at auction
- SpaceX supply ship makes Easter cargo delivery to space station
- Obama administration delays decision on Keystone XL pipeline
- Wyoming evacuees wary of slow landslide
- Study says regular pot use affects the brain
- GAO finds just 1 percent of large partnerships audited by IRS
- Heroin-related deaths set record in Ohio
- Colorado deaths stoke marijuana worries
- Probation officer of suspect in slaying of North Allegheny graduate resigns
- Recovery expert believes wreckage of missing plane located
- Denver wife killed 12 minutes into 911 call, sparking inquiry