LOS ANGELES – A Santa Barbara County man was charged today with involuntary manslaughter for allegedly crashing a stolen Jeep near Vandenberg Air Force Base while under the influence of drugs, killing one motorist and severely injuring another.
Michael James Culligan, 29, of Lompoc, was arrested on June 16 and is scheduled to make his initial appearance this afternoon in United States District Court. He is charged in a federal criminal complaint filed today with one felony count of involuntary manslaughter within federal jurisdiction.
According to an affidavit filed with the complaint, on June 16, law enforcement responded to a report of a traffic collision on Santa Lucia Canyon Road, near Vandenberg Air Force Base. There, law enforcement found two cars – a 2016 Lexus whose driver was dead and whose passenger was badly injured, and an unoccupied 2013 Jeep, the affidavit states.
From the Jeep, law enforcement allegedly recovered empty alcoholic beverage containers and Culligan’s California identification card. Law enforcement also determined that the Jeep had been reported stolen and that the Jeep’s license plates belonged to a different car.
An eyewitness at the crash scene said the driver of the Jeep appeared to have lost control, drove into the oncoming lane of traffic, then crashed head-on into the Lexus, the affidavit states. The Jeep’s driver then fled the scene of the accident, the eyewitness said.
Approximately three hours later, Culligan was apprehended about 1.5 miles from the scene of the collision at a nearby train station. Culligan allegedly admitted to using drugs before operating the Jeep, crashing the Jeep into another car, and fleeing the scene.
A complaint contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
If convicted of this charge, Culligan would face a statutory maximum sentence of eight years in federal prison.
This matter was investigated by the United States Air Force Office of Special Investigations with the California Highway Patrol and Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office providing substantial assistance.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Joseph D. Axelrad of the Violent and Organized Crime Section.
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