Two Mexican Nationals Guilty of Murder
updated: Feb 05, 2014, 2:13 PM
Source: United States Attorney's Office
Two Mexican nationals were found guilty today of federal charges related to the
death of a Coast Guard officer who was fatally injured in late 2012 when he was
thrown from a Coast Guard vessel that was rammed by a "panga" boat operated by
Following a seven-day trial, a federal jury convicted one of the defendants of
second-degree murder in the death of Chief Petty Officer Terrell Horne III, who
died while his boat was attempting to interdict the panga boat near Santa Cruz
Island in the Channel Islands National Park.
The two men found guilty today are:
Jose Meija-Leyva, 42, of Ensenada, who was found guilty of murder, as well as
two counts of failure to heave to and four counts of assaulting federal officers
with a deadly and dangerous weapon; and
Manuel Beltran-Higuera, 44, of Ensenada, who also was convicted in the two
counts of failure to heave to (as an accessory after the fact in one count and
as an aider and abettor in the second count) and in the four counts of assault
(as an accessory after the fact).
Both defendants are scheduled to be sentenced by United States District Judge
Gary A. Feess on May 12.
When he is sentenced, Meija-Leyva will face a statutory maximum sentence
of life in federal prison. At sentencing, Beltran-Higuera will face a statutory
maximum sentence of 60 years.
Chief Petty Officer Horne, a 34-year-old Redondo Beach resident, was the
first Coast Guard officer murdered while on duty since 1927.
"We are pleased with the verdict and that those responsible for Senior Chief
Horne's death will be held accountable," said Admiral Robert J. Papp, Jr.,
Commandant of the Coast Guard. "While the conviction of Senior Chief Horne's
killers cannot make up for the loss of a family member, friend and shipmate, we
do hope that the conclusion of this case provides some level of comfort and
closure to his loved ones. The Coast Guard will continue to honor the legacy
Senior Chief Horne and his selfless service to our nation."
Chief Petty Officer Horne was killed during a law enforcement operation that
began late on December 1, 2012 when a Coast Guard airplane identified a
suspicious boat about one mile off Santa Cruz Island. After Coast Guard
personnel on the Coast Guard cutter Halibut boarded the boat, the airplane
identified another suspicious vessel nearby in Smuggler's Cove on Santa Cruz
Island, The airplane reported that the suspicious vessel in Smuggler's Cove was
an approximately 30-foot-long open bowed fishing vessel, commonly referred to as
a panga boat.
Coast Guard officers aboard the Halibut launched the Halibut's small, inflatable
boat with four officers aboard. The Coast Guard small boat crew located the
panga boat approximately 200 yards from the eastern shore of Santa Cruz Island
at approximately 1:20 a.m. on December 2. As the Coast Guard's small boat
approached the panga boat, the officers activated the boat's police lights and
identified themselves as law enforcement. The crew members of the panga boat
then throttled the engines and steered the panga boat toward the small boat. As
the panga boat rapidly approached the Coast Guard's small boat, the officer at
the helm attempted to avoid a collision by steering the small boat out of the
path of the panga boat.
Despite these efforts, the panga boat rammed into the Coast Guard's small boat,
ejecting Chief Petty Officer Horne and another officer into the water. Chief
Petty Officer Horne was struck by a propeller in the head and sustained a fatal
injury. The other officer sustained a laceration to his knee.
After striking the Coast Guard's small boat, the panga boat crew fled the scene.
Coast Guard aircraft followed the panga boat until it was intercepted by a Coast
Guard vessel about four hours later approximately 20 miles north of the Mexico-
United States border. Meija and Beltran were arrested at this point.
The investigation in this case was being conducted by the Coast Guard
Investigative Service (CGIS) with the assistance of the Los Angeles Border
Enforcement Security Task Force (LA BEST) in San Pedro.
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