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Men held after panga boat is found in San Luis Obispo County

Two men were being held in connection with a panga boat that San Luis Obispo County sheriff's deputies discovered along the Central California coast early Tuesday.

Two deputies on patrol discovered the beached boat and five men while investigating an open gate to a beachfront field near San Simeon about 4:15 a.m., the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Department said in a statement. The suspects ran off, but deputies were able to apprehend one after a brief scuffle and another about a mile away.

The captured men were later identified as Luis Osiel Gonzalez and Juan Pedro Gonzalez, both 23. Luis Osiel Gonzalez was jailed on suspicion of felony resisting a peace officer and battery on a peace officer; Juan Pedro Gonzalez was held on suspicion of giving false information to a peace officer and placed on immigration hold, authorities said.

Authorities searched the area with dogs and by air, but didn't find the other suspects. They did find about 30 fuel containers floating near the 28-foot-long boat, which was turned over to the U.S. Coast Guard.

Although no drugs were found aboard, authorities said the panga was "consistent with narcotic smuggling operations" and told the San Luis Obispo Tribune it might have been a supply boat or "companion vessel" to other boats carrying drugs.

Pangas are not uncommon to California, although the boats — used to smuggle drugs or people into the U.S. from Mexico — are typically discovered along the southern coast.

But the panga discovered in San Luis Obispo County was the fourth that washed ashore north of Cambria in the last six months, the Tribune reported. In May, an abandoned panga loaded with 1,800 pounds of marijuana was found — a discovery that sheriff's officials told the newspaper was the first of its kind in the county.

As a result, the Tribune reported, the sheriff has ordered increased patrols along the remote, rugged coast. The deputies who discovered the panga Tuesday were part of that effort.


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— Kate Mather

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