Skip to main content
Press Release

Lompoc Man Pleads Guilty to Involuntary Manslaughter Charge 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 pleaded guilty today to a federal manslaughter charge 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, pleaded guilty to one count of involuntary manslaughter.

          According to his plea agreement, 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 and during his post-arrest interview, he admitted to using drugs before operating the Jeep, crashing the Jeep into another car and fleeing the scene of the accident.

          Culligan has been in federal custody since June 2020.

          United States District Judge André Birotte Jr. has scheduled a January 7, 2022 sentencing hearing, at which time Culligan will face a statutory maximum sentence of eight years in federal prison.

          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 is prosecuting this case.


Ciaran McEvoy
Public Information Officer
United States Attorney’s Office
Central District of California (Los Angeles)
(213) 894-4465

Updated September 10, 2021

Press Release Number: 21-186