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Memorial today for slain Coast Guard officer

December 8, 2012 | 10:55 am

Coast guard terrell horne

U.S. Coast Guard officials are scheduled to hold a memorial Saturday for a veteran chief petty officer killed after suspected smugglers rammed his small vessel off the coast of Santa Barbara, tossing him into the sea.

U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano is expected to attend the event for Terrell Horne III of Redondo Beach, who served in the Coast Guard for nearly 14 years and was second in command of the Halibut patrol cutter. The memorial, at 1 p.m. on Terminal Island, is closed to the public.

Horne, 34, had been honored by the agency for his leadership in dozens of search-and-rescue cases. He is survived by his wife, Rachel, who is pregnant with their second child, according to media reports.

Horne was killed early Sunday after his boat came across a panga, a fishing vessel that law enforcement officers say has become the craft of choice for smugglers. The Coast Guard crew members turned on their blue flashing lights and shouted, in English and Spanish: "Stop! Police! Put your hands up!" according to court documents.

In response, the two men aboard the panga throttled their engines and headed straight at the Coast Guard boat, ignoring shots fired by a crew member and provoking the collision that killed Horne and injured one of his colleagues, who was not identified.

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.

Officials say the tragedy underscored 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.

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--Ashley Powers and Steve Chawkins

Photo: Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Terrell Horne climbing up onto the Halibut after conducting water survival training. Credit: U.S. Coast Guard

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