Body of Man Killed in Alleged Human Smuggling Attempt Pulled from La Jolla Waters

Photo from the Times of San Diego. 

A dead body was found in the waters by Pacific Beach in La Jolla after another man was pulled from the ocean in the same vicinity. Both men were allegedly participants in a Mexican human smuggling attempt on Saturday, Nov. 18.

Human smuggling is the “illegal entry of a person across an international border” under the person’s own will, in the hopes of gaining some benefit.

According to an article by NBC 7 San Diego, La Jolla resident Phoenix Coberley found the man in the water around 11 p.m. on Saturday when she “could hear a man screaming out of her window” in her home.  

Coberley called for lifeguards who pulled the 32-year-old Mexican national out of the water. Shortly afterward, the policemen and an ambulance arrived. A Channel 7 report noted that the man “told [lifeguards] there were still five other people in the ocean on boogie boards” who had also jumped off the boat. He was “one of six immigrants” who had allegedly attempted to cross the American-Mexican border via boat in a case of human smuggling.

“It is believed that they were told to swim to shore [by the driver],” Border Patrol Agent Tekae Michael told ABC 10 News.

“The San Diego Police Department, U.S. Border Patrol, and U.S. Coast Guard were notified,” San Diego Fire-Rescue Department spokeswoman told The San Diego Union-Tribune.

The 32-year-old Mexican was taken to the hospital due to hypothermia.

Just a few hours after the man was pulled from the water, lifeguards found a lifeless body in the water at 1 a.m. on Sunday, Nov. 19. As stated in The San Diego Union-Tribune, Michael confirms that “he was pronounced dead at the scene.”

Despite the discovery of these two bodies, investigators were unable to find the boat itself or the remaining members.

“It is believed that the driver of the boat did return back to Mexico,” Michael said.

The San Diego Coast Guard sent a helicopter Saturday night and a rescue boat on Sunday morning in search of the other members. However, according to a report by ABC 10 News, “lifeguards determined that the other people swam ashore and disappeared.”

Treasurer of the UCSD College Republicans Travis Gilbert is concerned about the effectiveness of immigration policies in regard to the safety of the immigrants and proper border control. He sees the “loss of human life” as “tragic,” but also recognizes that “the incident comes from a distinct issue in overall immigration policy.”

Gilbert believes that “the U.S. should further work with Mexican authorities to properly control [its] sea-borders and continue patrols off the coasts to ensure that incidents like these can be prevented. Law must be maintained, but catching and turning back these boats would also maintain the safety of those on it.”

Graduate student Jonathan Yost is the Water Drop Route leader for the Border Angels, an organization that provides supplies and improves safety for the Mexican immigrants crossing the border, specifically through the desert.

Through his work, Yost has familiarized himself with the dangers of crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, such as those faced by the boat group.

“This is not at all uncommon,” he stated. “People are risking their lives and doing really extreme things in order to get a better life.”

Yost describes the method of “funneling” that he believes may have pushed the group into attempting to enter the U.S. via boat.

“One thing the government has done is [use] a lot of ways to militarize safer urban crossing.” Yost believes that in urban areas immigrants are not so prone to “face a lot of those risks” they may face in desert crossings. “That means people [are] pushed into the extreme areas.”

As of Nov. 22, the whereabouts of the other four immigrants, as well as the driver of the boat and the boat itself, remain unknown to authorities. The hospitalized man was released to California Border Patrol.