Reporting on the Mexican Cartel Drug War

Fatal incident reflects new boldness among offshore smugglers

Tuesday, December 4, 2012 |


Borderland Beat

A suspected drug smuggler who captained the boat that allegedly knocked a U.S. Coast Guardsman into the ocean, resulting in his death, told authorities he was "taking gasoline to some lost friends," according to federal prosecutors.
 
The 13-page affidavit in support of charging two Mexican nationals — boat captain Jose Mejia-Leyva and Manuel Beltran-Higuera — in the death of Terrell Horne III details a violent confrontation near Santa Cruz Island on Sunday before the the suspects surrendered.
 
After telling authorities he was taking gas to friends who he said were north of Los Angeles, Mejia-Leyva asked for an attorney and stopped answering questions, prosecutors said.
 
 
LA Times
 
The small Coast Guard inflatable vessel was 20 yards from the panga, an open fishing boat that law enforcement officers say has become the craft of choice to ferry untold numbers of marijuana bales and undocumented immigrants from Mexico   to Southern California.
Spotted earlier by a Coast Guard cutter, the panga was running without lights, a standard practice in the illicit trade, according to investigators.
        (Photo of family-wife is pregnant)
The four men on the boat dispatched from the cutter Halibut approached it cautiously, about 200 yards from the shore of Santa Cruz Island, off the Santa Barbara coast. In the darkness, they turned on their blue flashing lights and shouted, in English and Spanish: "Stop! Police! Put your hands up!" according to court documents filed Monday.
In response, the two men aboard the panga throttled their engines and headed straight at the small Coast Guard boat, ignoring shots fired by a crew member, provoking a collision that left a chief petty officer dead and his colleague injured. Then the two men kept going.
One of two men thrown out of the inflatable, Chief Petty Officer Terrell Horne III of Redondo Beach, died of a head injury caused by a propeller, according to the affidavit, which was filed in connection with the murder case against two suspects detained as they tried to flee to Mexico.
Officials say the tragedy underscores the dangers posed by smugglers who have foregone well-policed land routes in favor of the sea. Although more than 500 maritime smuggling incidents have been logged off the Southern California coast since 2010, this was the first violent death, authorities said.
"Most of our interdictions off of California can only be described as benign," Coast Guard spokesman Adam Eggers said. "There may be an attempt to evade, there may be a short pursuit, but we haven't had anything like this."
The men on the panga, Jose Mejia Leyva and Manuel Beltran Higuera, both Mexican nationals, were charged in Horne's death in U.S. District Court. Authorities believe they had been supplying gasoline to other smuggling craft operating off the California coast.
According to the affidavit, military aircraft followed their 30-foot craft as it made its way toward Mexico. With the two men futilely trying to restart their sputtering engine 20 miles north of the border, another Coast Guard vessel overtook them. Crew members demanded their surrender at gunpoint. When the men kept trying to start their engine, the Coast Guard crew doused them with pepper spray.
Encounters with seaborne smuggling have nearly doubled since 2010, with the steepest increases found along the more secluded, less patrolled beaches of Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
In Santa Barbara County, the surge has alarmed local authorities. In an April letter to Rep. Lois Capps (D-Santa Barbara), Sheriff Bill Brown said the county experienced 16 "panga incidents" since the previous July, including the beaching of a four-engine, 45-foot "super-panga" that could easily have outpaced his department's sole vessel.
"It's a direct byproduct of increased pressure at the border and increased maritime enforcement to the south of us," Brown said in an interview Monday. "They're going further out to sea and they're coming further north."
Capps said she is asking federal agencies for additional enforcement funds in Santa Barbara.
The greatest number of coastal smuggling cases still occurs in San Diego, Orange and Los Angeles counties. But intensive interagency efforts based in San Diego and Long Beach have forced some smugglers farther up the coast, officials said.
"It's not so much that efforts are being stepped up as that agencies are pooling knowledge and experience and expertise," Eggers said. "The beautiful thing about Los Angeles is that there's a ton of law enforcement here."
Upgraded technology, such as infrared radar and enhanced video, is being shared among agencies, he said, along with "actionable intelligence."
But smugglers have powerful incentives to take the risk. Dozens of people, paying an average of $6,000 apiece, can cram into each panga. Police say marijuana bales hauled by a typical panga can sell for millions. There's a huge expanse of sea — the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary is nearly 1,500 square miles — and major roads, including U.S. 101, run right by potential landing areas.
Boat pilots often try to outrun law enforcement and some high-speed chases have ended with U.S. officers shooting out gasoline tanks or performing swerving maneuvers to stop the pangas, said a federal law enforcement officer who spoke on condition of anonymity.
"They aggressively try to get away, but not turn their boat on another boat like they did the other night," the officer said.
On occasion, the rugged terrain of Channel Islands National Park has served as a staging area for smugglers. 
In 2010, authorities seized 2,448 pounds of marijuana hidden in brush in a canyon on Santa Rosa Island, and arrested four people hiding nearby.
In 2011, 15 suspected illegal immigrants were stranded for three days on Santa Cruz Island, abandoned by the panga pilot who had transported them. They were rescued after calling 911 and hailing a boater.
Sunday's incident at Santa Cruz Island occurred in Smugglers Cove, where tequila traders from Mexico once stashed their goods before the trip ashore, Brown said.
"To a certain extent, we have history repeating itself," he said.
In June, six people were arrested as they unloaded 1.5 tons of marijuana from their panga at Santa Barbara County's El Capitan State Beach. The Gaviota coast has been a landing spot for smugglers dating back to the Spanish colonial era.
Arraignment for the two men charged in Horne's death has been set for Dec. 21.
In another panga case Monday, a federal judge took note of the weekend's deadly encounter as he handed a sentence of nearly four years to a Mexican man whose marijuana-laden panga got stuck in rocks near Deer Creek Canyon in Malibu.
U.S. District Judge John F. Walter said the tragedy made it impossible to view the many sea smuggling cases on his docket as "lighthearted" capers.
"It has taken on now a much more serious tone in light of the events this weekend," Walter said, adding, "Something needs to be done about this rash of panga boats."
The defendant, Antonio Robles-Garcia, was arrested in January. His attorney, Dale Rubin, said he had signed on because was desperate to get to the U.S. and work.
Criminal complaint on page two- click image for better clarity-
For full 14 pages LINK HERE

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35 Borderland Beat Comments:

Anonymous said...

If I was in charge I would tie the drugs to their ankles and have them swim back to mx.

Anonymous said...

Doused then with pepper spray? Should have peppered them with automatic machine gun fire. These low lifes will never learn their lesson until they feel the warmth of some hot lead piercing through their bodies.

Anonymous said...

they stage their journey from popotla just s of rosarito

Anonymous said...

You're rigjt my brother. These criminals deserve death. They kill pur ppl in mexico the least we could do is kill them here pn us soil and get a little pay back..plomo o plomo is the only choice we should give them.. Ramon ayala

Anonymous said...

first and foremost, the CIA should via ship the cocain straight from colombia to the USA,instedad of using mexico as a middle man.That's how you're gonna get rid of this problem, all this mexican's ,and americans die because of this corrupt mexican,and US government us as civilians gotta pay for there greed,and world control.It would be nice if the rothchilds family give us civilians a loan to get rid of the rat's and get them off power for once and for all.

Anonymous said...

When will those who combat drug smugglers ever learn?
It's no use treating them with kid gloves!!!!
If they don't obey the orders of the authorities to stop, they should be blow out of the water!!!!
Same problem with Mexico.
That's why these drug cartels are so bold!!!!!
You don't fight such scums with kid gloves on!

Charles Gallo said...

Not Machinegun fire - 5 inch 50 fire - game, set and match. Treat it like it is, an invasion of a sovereign nation

Anonymous said...

4 years is all they get...no wonder they ignore the officers and try to run...they know they can only get 4 years ! Seems like a minimum of 20 to me.

Anonymous said...

All the attention that is given when a military or high up is killed or wounded in the American papers is embarrassing as a American myself. Who is shedding tears for the child kidnapped off a bus and killed or the father walking home with dinner for his family when caught in a crossfire in Mexico or a woman seeking justice for a murdered child? My government sure gets involved with a quickness when it is a high profile individual. My heart goes out to his family but not sure what it will take to get their attention for all the horrifying events going on in Mexico.

Anonymous said...

I want to see video or it is nothing more than another cover-up by the US for killing one of their own people.

Anonymous said...

Sad to see in the "forum" the anti-American sentiments. A LEO lost his life, because of some who were here illegally, engaged in shady activity. Would be nice to see the same outrage as that expressed against the DPS officer involved in the helicopter shooting against the illegals on the run. But some will not be happy until the floodgates are open and America is as much a 3rd world country as Mexico

Anonymous said...

What the fuck u talking about..go back and get on your PlayStation ..pendejo.

Anonymous said...

The crazy thing is they drive pangas from Mexico all the way up the California coast. They must also get drop offs from small fishing vessels and cargo ships I would assume. Load em on to pangas and head for shore. Sometimes they are out 50+ miles maybe up to a 100 miles in a freeking panga! Crazy mofos.

Anonymous said...

This type of thing has bean going on for a long long time we used to find " square grouper " alot it's just sad a coasty had to die to wake up the masses in this country the other islands around here also see alot of smuggling people and dope both it's kinda strange the population of Catalina island is very very Latino now hmm

Anonymous said...

thats why you are not in charge

Anonymous said...

As usual the law enforcement want more money.
and more money and more money.
what a scam.

Anonymous said...

And if i was in charge i would of forced them too drink all the gasoline"go orn,down the hatch"

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry but really those coast guards treat mexicans like absolute shit every day and the truth here is that these guys decided to fight back. It doesn't happen often and most US law enforcement are totally racist rednecks who violate people civil rights Every day. I have to say, I think more cops should get street justice for the way they treat these people. And guess what all you redneck cops on here....you go to Mexico and be a big tough guy cop and you will see that you guys are not shit ....go catch a purse snatcher or write some tickets

Anonymous said...

"or a woman seeking justice for a murdered child?"

Who had more of an obligation to give a $^#@ about Marisela Escobedo, the US Govt. or the Mexican Govt.?

Caring about your own people is a basic function of government, which unfortunately is lacking in both countries, however, it's hard for the US Govt. to give a %^$# on what's happening in Mexico when Mexico's own government time and time again in multiple locations and levels of government has demonstrated that the are either unable or unwilling to take on the responsibility of protecting their own citizens.

Anonymous said...

Oh oh,here we go with the whining.They are employed to stop illegal activities such as this,but now they are being called racist?What a joke,Mexicans calling anyone racist?

Anonymous said...

Here's the answer for all the whiners!
"Caring about your own people is a basic function of government"
This guy was killed trying to uphold laws?But it gets sabotaged by idiots and fools playing either the race card or the unfeeling gringo card.What man or woman doesn't feel for a family or an innocent child being hurt or killed,but using the US a some sort of scapegoat is a never ending idiocy.

Anonymous said...

December 4, 2012 8:44 PM
"Sad to see in the "forum" the anti-American sentiments"
Yup,and the strange thing is most of them will be writing their crap from the safety of the US.
Because some may have Mexican heritage,they get all anti US and even start getting racist against you know who.The most pathetic of species,live one place where it is more comfortable,but claim another place.We could all do that,but i aint that kind of person.

Anonymous said...

Sad to see US citizens saying some of the shit they are saying,you should be thanking these kind of guys for keeping your whining asses safe.

Anonymous said...

@7:22p.m. As an American, your spin on the US reporting of illegal on LEO violence confuses me. Just because Mexico's press has fallen prey to the violence of the cartels, does not mean that America does not care. Stories do make their way out, and I believe most Americans are horrified and saddened about the war raging right across our border. Journalism = what, when, where, how. Just the facts. We have it, Mexico often does not.

Anonymous said...

@3:50a.m. Really? And you know this how? These are illegal aliens who have no business in our waters. Maybe they are treated better at home, so they should just stay there? MOST US LE are racist rednecks? Funny. Where I am most are Mexican, and they have been nothing but polite and professional in my dealings with them, and I am gringa. Have had much worse treatment at the hands of local police across the border. The "bite" was alive and flourishing till all the locals got replaced by the military.

Anonymous said...

@6:22a.m. Wonder how much of the billions of dollars the US sends to Mexico ends up lining the pockets of the political elite, instead being used to locate and bring to justice cartel members and their sponsors?

Anonymous said...

the bottom line is, the smugglers took their chances running drugs over here in their boat I'm now they are in jail where they belong. secondly the coast guards sneak attack backfired and one of them dead.... Now most likely the events that took place out there were not the way they reported it..all...I think the Coast Guard left a few details out and their story stinks like fish!!!

Anonymous said...

"MOST US LE are racist rednecks? Funny. Where I am most are Mexican, and they have been nothing but polite and professional"
That kind of truth people don't want to hear on here.
It doesn't go with the program they want to espouse.

Anonymous said...

You sound like a shitbag that got tased or knocked around a little for being, a shitbag!!! And i say this as fed up citizen that is tired of hearing criminals and felons cry about police brutality. We dont have enough cops on the beat and those that are out there are only getting about 10% of what is smuggled into the u.s.. Sad to say but it is the truth!!

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with some of the comments on this blog ,(another cover up) as a tax paying American citizen I believe the Coast Guard should stop playing "god" out at sea and maybe that young man would still be alive.

Anonymous said...

Well then go live in Mexico! It's an option...

Anonymous said...

Where's my comment?

Anonymous said...

And just maybe, you should go live in the pirate infested waters of Somalia.....

Anonymous said...

God bless his soul and family, its sad that the U.S. govt enables ALL of the drug smugglers. Has them as paid informants, gives them guns and disguises it as operation gunrunner and Operation fast and furious. Our govt doesnt want this to stop EVER....

Anonymous said...

So California has a lil waterborne drug smuggling problem..? Here in Miami it never stops
but they don't pepper spray the perps. In Miami
they say "Stop" they mean "STOP" because the next sound your gonna hear is 50 calibers sputtin across the bow. If you still don't stop
that same 50 cal. gonna be eating those Verado's
for lunch as well as the stern..! The CG here knows how to get your attention rapido..!

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