Smuggler convicted of murdering Coast Guard officer

May 13, 2014

pangaA Mexican national caught smuggling drugs in a panga boat was sentenced to life without parole after a jury convicted him of second-degree murder in the death of a Coast Guard officer patrolling the waters off of the Central Coast.

On Dec. 1, 2012, a Coast Guard airplane identified a suspicious vessel in Smuggler’s Cove as an approximately 30-foot-long open bowed fishing vessel, commonly referred to as a panga boat. 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 driver 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 Senior Chief Petty Officer Horne and another officer into the water. Senior 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 as it approached the Mexico-United States border. Jose Mejia-Leyva, 42 and Manuel Beltran-Higuera, 44, both of Ensenada, were then arrested.

After a jury found him guilty, the judge sentenced Mejia-Leyva to life without parole for his murder conviction, as well as two counts of failure to heave to and four counts of assaulting federal officers with a deadly and dangerous weapon.

The judge sentenced Beltran-Higuera to 10 years in federal prison after a jury found him guilty of 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).


I sail offshore quite a bit. I do worry about an encounter with these guys. Here’s how the Russians deal with pirates:

Russ J

At least now these murderous Panga drivers will be able to obtain a California boaters license so they can legally navigate our oceans. Thanks – you bleeding hearts.


And they will become US citizens entitled to food stamps, social security and Medicare when they get out. Free education for all the kids who will be born after conjugal visits. And voting rights which you will get just by presenting an ID card with photo from your local gym membership (read your absentee voting directions if you don’t believe this one!!)

Downtown Bob

It will make our oceans much safer when everyone has a boat license right!


I have a problem with what happened there, why would you put an inflatable in the water to go see a suspected dope runner,then when the dopers shot one of our boys the cutter should have opened up with the 50 Cal on the deck and shot the panga to the bottom of the ocean along with the mexicans that were on it,problem solved,no court,no jail,big problem is we lost one of ours.


I have complete confidence that somehow Jerry Brown will find a way to educate, license and grant citizenship to these nationals


I am disgusted that we have to risk the lives of our Coast Guard and now our Sheriff’s Department to capture these drug cartel smugglers along our coast. China has no problem with illegal entry into the country because they just shoot the invaders. Once people know they will be shot, they don’t keep coming.

Monterey County found a Panga boat 70 miles south of San Francisco. I guess it will take some family being slaughtered on the beach or deputies being killed, before people in this county get serious about complaining to Governor Brown and Senators Feinstein and Boxer.


I am not sure that Gov. Brown has much influence on federal border enforcement policies. Feinstein and Boxer, on the other hand, surely could do more if they had the combination of integrity and courage to do so. Unfortunately. they don’t have the integrity and may lack the political courage to risk being perceived as “anti-immigrant.”


“In China when they catch you they just shoot you. That’s why China doesn’t have any problem with .”

Total… utter… nonsense.


Aside from the fact that your comment about China has no basis in reality… the reason the federal government isn’t doing anything about it is because they’re IN on it.