A Coast Guard admiral said an officer killed Sunday when his boat was rammed by suspected smugglers near Santa Cruz Island died "protecting our nation."
In a statement read by a spokesman at a news conference Sunday afternoon, Coast Guard Adm. Robert J. Papp said: “We are deeply saddened by the loss of our shipmate.”
The Guard Guard released few details about the incident, but a spokesman vowed that "all individuals involved in this illegal action [will be] brought to justice."
The officer was identified as Executive Petty Officer Terrell Horne.
Horne was aboard a small Coast Guard craft and was investigating a boat that was operating without any lights, raising suspicion. The other boat was a “panga,” an open-hulled boat that is “the choice of smugglers operating off the coast of California,” said Coast Guard spokesman Adam Eggers.
The boat rammed the Coast Guard vessel when it approached, knocking two Coast Guard members into the water. When Horne was pulled out of the water it was determined that he had suffered a traumatic head injury and died. The other Coast Guard member had minor injuries.
An official at the Port of Hueneme told the Ventura County Star that two suspects were detained in the incident.