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Press Release

Central Coast Man Sentenced to Nearly 4 Years in Federal Prison for Causing Fatal Car Accident Near Vandenberg Air Force Base

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Central District of California

          LOS ANGELES – A Santa Barbara County man was sentenced today to 46 months in federal prison for 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, 30, of Lompoc, was sentenced by United States District Judge André Birotte Jr. after pleading guilty in September to one count of involuntary manslaughter.

          On June 16, 2020, at approximately 12:30 p.m., Culligan drove a stolen 2019 Jeep Wrangler on Vandenberg Air Force Base property. After veering onto the right shoulder, Culligan’s car swerved into the oncoming lane of traffic and collided head-on with a blue Lexus sedan, killing its driver and seriously injuring its passenger. Following the traffic collision, Culligan climbed out of the Jeep Wrangler’s sunroof and fled the scene. Law enforcement later found him hiding in a drainpipe.

          Culligan was under the influence of illegal narcotics at the time of the accident, according to court documents. During his post-arrest interview, Culligan admitted using drugs before operating the vehicle, crashing the Jeep into another car and fleeing the scene of the accident.

          Culligan has been in federal custody since June 2020.

          “The severity and tragedy of [Culligan’s] conduct cannot be overstated,” prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memorandum. “His disregard for the safety of the community was staggering. Driving a stolen car while drunk and high is the very epitome of recklessness and, sadly, [Culligan’s] conduct had consequences.”

          The United States Air Force Office of Special Investigations investigated this matter. The California Highway Patrol and Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office provided substantial assistance.

          Assistant United States Attorney Joseph D. Axelrad of the Violent and Organized Crime Section prosecuted this case.


Thom Mrozek
Director of Media Relations
(213) 894-6947

Updated February 16, 2022

Press Release Number: 22-028