By ELLIOT SPAGAT
SAN DIEGO – The Coast Guard filed criminal charges Thursday against four petty officers who were in a patrol boat that slammed into a civilian craft during a Christmas parade on San Diego Bay, killing an 8-year-old boy and injuring five others.
The four face charges ranging from involuntary manslaughter to negligent homicide and dereliction of duty. Some charges are punishable by several years in prison upon conviction in military court.
The collision occurred the night of Dec. 20 as boats were gathered in San Diego Bay for an annual Christmas parade of decorated boats. Witnesses had said the 33-foot Coast Guard boat was speeding when it rammed a 26-foot Sea Ray pleasure boat.
Anthony Cole DeWeese was struck in the head and died at a hospital after the crash.
“I knew the Coast Guard would do a professional investigation of this, so I am not surprised at all,” said Mike Neil, an attorney for the DeWeese family. “It was an anticipated development because it confirms what we have felt along.”
The family filed a lawsuit against the federal government in February in San Diego federal court, seeking unspecified damages.
A Coast Guard spokesman, Dan Dewell, said he did not have attorney names for the four defendants.
The Coast Guard charged Petty Officer Paul A. Ramos, the boat coxswain, with involuntary manslaughter, aggravated assault, negligence and dereliction of duty.
Petty Officer Ian M. Howell was charged with negligent homicide, aggravated assault, negligence and dereliction of duty.
Petty Officer Brittany N. Rasmussen was charged with negligent homicide, aggravated assault, and dereliction of duty.
A charge of dereliction of duty was brought against Petty Officer Lavelle M. Teague.
Prosecutors will present evidence against the four at a hearing in military court and Rear Adm. Joseph Castillo, commander of the 11th Coast Guard District, will decide whether to convene a court-martial.
Involuntary manslaughter is punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Other potential maximum terms are five years for aggravated assault, three years for negligent homicide, two years for negligently hazarding a vessel, and three months for dereliction of duty.
Witnesses said the Coast Guard boat was traveling at 35 mph to 45 mph when it crashed.
The Coast Guard boat was responding to a report of a grounded vessel when it rammed DeWeese’s boat. Neither boat was participating in the parade.
Alan DeWeese has said that he had just finished watching a fireworks display when he heard an engine roar behind him. He turned around, but it was too late to dodge the Coast Guard boat bearing down on him in the dark.
“He came up so fast I didn’t have time to react,” DeWeese told The Associated Press in December.
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