A U.S. Coast Guard Officer has died following an encounter with drug smugglers off the California coast.

Two Mexican nationals — Jose Meija Leyva and Manuel Beltran Higuera — face charges of killing a federal officer while the officer was on duty.

Chief Petty Officer Terrell Horne, 34, died Sunday after he was struck in the head by the suspects’ vessel, near the Channel Islands, west of Los Angeles.

Horne is the first law enforcement official to die off California since a spike in illegal activity began several years ago, said Ralph DeSio, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman.

As the Coast Guard cutter approached the small vessel, the suspects hit the motor, ramming the boat.

Horne fell, hit his head, landing in the water.

Crew members quickly retrieved Horne and began to treat him. He died from his injuries a short time later.

It’s tragic that an officer had to lose his life because of the drug smuggling.

While the chargers did not confirm whether or not drugs were on board the small vessel, the Coast Guard needs to remain relentless to stop these criminals.

Our hearts go out to the family of the fallen officer.