Guilty Verdict for Men Accused of Coast Guard Murder

More than a year after the death of a veteran Coast Guard officer near Santa Cruz Island, a Mexican national has been found guilty of second-degree murder and other federal charges in connection with the crime, according to the LA Times.

Jose Meija-Leyva, of Ensenada, Mexico, was found guilty Wednesday by a federal court and could face a maximum sentece of life in prison.

His accomplice in the attack, Manuel Beltran-Higuera, also of Ensanada, was convicted as an accessory after the fact and could face a maximum of 60 years in prison.

This deadly attack marked the first occurrence of a Coast Guard officer being killed in the line of duty in over 80 years. Chief Petty Officer Terrell Horne III was killed during a drug-smuggling investigation, when Meija-Leyva and Beltran-Higuera rammed an inflatable Coast Guard vessel holding Horne and three other officers with their fishing boat.

It is believed that the two men were supplying gasoline to other smugglers along the coast when the Coast Guard discovered them. They were later captured when they attempted to return to Mexico.

Meija-Leyva was convicted of seven counts in total. According to the U.S. attorney’s office, in addition to second-degree murder, he is guilty of assaulting federal officers with a deadly and dangerous weapon.

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