Two Mexican nationals pleaded not guilty Friday over the death of a United States Coast Guard member who was killed on Dec. 2 near Santa Cruz Island.
Jose Meija Leyva and Manuel Beltran Higuera are charged with second-degree murder for allegedly ramming a Coast Guard boat with their 30-foot panga boat, causing Chief Petty Officer Terrell Horne III to fall overboard. Horne, 34, died from traumatic head injuries after being struck by a boat propeller.
Horne and fellow officers were investigating a report of a fishing boat operating without lights at night in an area known as Smuggler’s Cove. Prosecutors allege Leyva and Higuera began turning their panga boat toward the Coast Guard vessel as it approached, eventually colliding and causing Horne and another officer to fall into the water. The other officer suffered minor injuries.