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2 men charged in killing of Coast Guardsman

Manuel Beltran Higuera (left) and Jose Meija Leyva were charged Monday, Dec. 3, 2012, in the killing of a U.S. Coast Guardsman Chief Petty Officer Terrell Horne III, who died in a confrontation with suspected drug smugglers.

December 3, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
Two Mexican nationals were charged Monday in the killing of a U.S. Coast Guardsman who died in a confrontation with suspected drug smugglers near the Channel Islands.

Jose Meija Leyva and Manuel Beltran Higuera were charged in Los Angeles with killing a federal officer of the United States while that officer was engaged in his official duties. They were in custody and made their first court appearance Monday afternoon. They were expected back in court Dec. 17.

Family and friends were mourning the loss of Chief Petty Officer Terrell Horne III, 34, of Redondo Beach. A somber mood was prevalent around the U.S. Coast Guard base in San Pedro on Monday as Coast Guard members paused to tearfully remember one of their own.

People stood with heads bowed as U.S. Coast Guard Cpt. James Jenkins read a special resolution honoring Horne, a 14-year veteran, as a decorative Coast Guardsman. The emotional tribute paid respect to Horne's leadership in more than 60 search and rescue cases, which saved more than 35 lives.

"Chief Officer Horne was an outstanding Coast Guard member and he gave his life in service enforcing the laws of this nation," said Cpt. Jenkins.

Chief Horne and his team were on a small inflatable boat around 2 a.m. Sunday when they were dispatched to check out a suspicious fishing boat off the coast of Santa Cruz that was traveling through the water without its lights on. According to a U.S. Coast Guard, when they approached the boat, the suspected drug smugglers pushed their boat into full throttle, slammed the smaller inflatable boat and then fled the area.

A second Guardsman suffered some minor injuries but was expected to be OK. Horne suffered severe head trauma and was pronounced dead after he was brought ashore at Port Hueneme. The U.S. Attorney's Office said Horne was struck in the head by a boat propeller.

Horne's family and friends are heartbroken. Niurka Strong, Horne's neighbor, said she's saddened the family will be grieving the loss of their loved one over the holiday season.

Hornes' family said they are thankful for all the love, prayers and concern they are receiving. Horne leaves behind a wife in Redondo Beach, who neighbors say is pregnant with their second child.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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