Credit: Len Wood/Santa Maria Times

A Santa Barbara County man was sentenced to just under four years in federal prison Wednesday for killing one motorist and severely injuring another after crashing a stolen Jeep while under the influence of narcotics near Vandenberg Air Force Base in 2020.

Michael James Culligan, 30, of Lompoc, has been in federal custody since June 16, 2020, when he was arrested following the incident, in which Culligan admitted to using drugs before driving the stolen car and swerving into oncoming traffic — colliding head-on with a blue Lexus sedan, killing the driver and seriously injuring the passenger.

According to court documents, Culligan was under the influence of illegal narcotics and confessed after his arrest to using drugs, crashing the Jeep into another car, and fleeing the scene. After the collision, Culligan climbed out of the Jeep Wrangler’s sunroof, fled the scene, and was found hiding in a drainpipe nearby.

The United States Air Force Office of Special Investigations ran the lead for the investigation, and California Highway Patrol and Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office provided substantial assistance, according to a statement from the Department of Justice.

Assistant United States Attorney Joseph D. Axelrad of the Violent and Organized Crime Section prosecuted this case, and Culligan was sentenced by United States District Judge André Birotte Jr. after pleading guilty in September to one count of involuntary manslaughter.

“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.”

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story referred to the collision as an accident.

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