Panga adrift
  • Panga adrift
  • Letter to Editor
  • Pin it

The family of a Mexican immigrant killed after the panga she was riding in off the coast of Encinitas collided with a U.S. Customs and Border Protection vessel is suing the officers involved in the collision.

The parents of 32-year-old Graciela Lopez Franco from Arandas, Mexico (in the state of Jalisco) filed their lawsuit in federal court on August 20 against three marine interdiction agents: Christopher Hunter, Arian Linscott, and Craig Jenkins.

According to the complaint, 20 people were onboard a panga a few minutes after midnight on June 18, 2015, seven miles off the coast of Encinitas when Border Patrol officers spotted the low-riding boat. Supervisor Hunter, Linscott, and Jenkins, riding in a 38-foot M901 patrol vessel, approached the panga. Once within range, the officers failed to use their intercom or lights on their vessel and instead, reads the complaint, ran straight toward the panga. The officers then directed a "flash-bang" explosion at the immigrants’ vessel. Officer Linscott fired several shots from his gun into the outboard motor, disabling it. The officers then rammed their boat into the panga, splitting it into several pieces.

"The panga’s occupants were hurled into the ocean in darkness," reads the complaint. "The scene was one of utter chaos. The passengers clung to parts of the capsized vessel. Some of the passengers screamed for help. Of the twenty on board, nineteen managed to grab onto a part of the panga or climb aboard the M901 that had smashed their vessel."

Lopez Franco was the only person who failed to surface. Officers found her trapped under a large piece of debris, dead.

The following day, media reports of the incident differed. A spokesperson for the Customs and Border Patrol agency told NBC7 that officers ordered the panga driver to stop but instead he tried to evade the 38-foot Border Patrol boat. While doing so, the panga collided with the Border Patrol vessel, causing it to capsize.

Agents said they ordered the person operating the 26-foot-long boat to stop, but the vessel did not yield, so agents fired warning shots. The suspected smuggling boat then collided with the CBP boat, causing the panga boat to capsize.

Adds the complaint, "Defendants both individually and collectively engaged in the unlawful use of clearly excessive force. Their use of force was objectively unreasonable. They acted with oppression, malice and with reckless indifference....

"Defendants were in control of a 38 foot vessel known as a ‘SAFE’ boat. Their vessel, designed as an interceptor, weighed 18,000 pounds, had a range of 400 nautical miles, and can attain speeds of 52 knots per hour. They were armed with automatic and semiautomatic weapons. They were pursuing a small wooden fishing boat without lights, with only an outboard motor for power, which could attain a speed of no more than 20 knots per hour. The panga contained twenty unarmed civilians, most of whom could not swim, and none of whom spoke English."

The case will move forward in federal court.

  • Letter to Editor
  • Pin it


Sjtorres Aug. 21, 2015 @ 6:49 p.m.

They are not "immigrants". They are illegal aliens.


JohnERangel Aug. 22, 2015 @ 5 a.m.

They are human beings. Just like you and I.


Shotgun Shela Aug. 22, 2015 @ 5:23 p.m.

:( sorry the woman drowned -- it's a high price to pay to enter the country Illegally :( doesnt seem reasonable -- I suspect the allagations are made up for an attempt at financial gain --

it's MORE believable the the operator of the panga attempted to evade and steered AT the patrol boat --


CaptainObvious Aug. 22, 2015 @ 11:18 p.m.

It does put the passengers in position as a human shield between him and the alleged gunfire.


Visduh Aug. 22, 2015 @ 7:46 p.m.

That only one of the twenty drowned after the boat was smashed seems almost miraculous. At least this time the accusations were not against the Coast Guard. The Border Patrol now has high-powered boats? There is some logic to that, I suppose.

Just keep in mind that the BP is out in the desert daily attempting to keep illegal crossers from dying of thirst/heat stroke. Yes they send them back, bot only after making sure they can survive. The story of the incident at sea comes across as hyperbolic. We can't be sure of how it happened, and never will be sure. But anyone who attempts to enter the US illegally that way is at high risk, and chose to risk it.


CaptainObvious Aug. 22, 2015 @ 11:16 p.m.

The driver of the panga was engaged in a crime that resulted in the death of a passenger. What has he been charged with?


David Dodd Aug. 24, 2015 @ 3:30 p.m.

You don't actually need knots "per hour" here. Nautical miles are not referenced as distance but always as speed. Miles is miles, but nautical miles are always measured in terms of speed and always per hour.


David Dodd Aug. 24, 2015 @ 3:32 p.m.

I realize that was quoted and not the fault of the author, but man, it just bugged the hell out of me reading it.


nostalgic Aug. 25, 2015 @ 6:08 a.m.

"The knot is a unit of speed equal to one nautical mile (1.852 km) per hour, approximately 1.151 mph. " If the firm filing the complaint doesn't know what a knot is, perhaps some Internet research would have helped them. This mistake does not enhance the credibility of the statement.

More interesting is that we have both the Coast Guard and the Border Patrol in boats out there. How do they decide who does what?


Sign in to comment

Let’s Be Friends

Subscribe for local event alerts, concerts tickets, promotions and more from the San Diego Reader