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Two Coast Guard members shot dead at Alaska base

by
US Coast Guard Boat
US Coast Guard Boat

By Yereth Rosen

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) - Two members of the Coast Guard were shot dead at a communications station on Alaska's Kodiak Island, prompting an investigation by the FBI and a lockdown of the base, officials said on Thursday.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation said there was no immediate evidence of terrorism or sabotage, but a security alert was in force at the installation because the circumstances surrounding the deaths were unclear.

FBI and Coast Guard officials declined to say whether investigators believed they were dealing with a double homicide or a murder-suicide.

The deaths marked the first fatal shootings at a Coast Guard facility in Alaska in over a decade.

"Since we don't have all the details, we strongly advise that all Kodiak residents remain vigilant and report any suspicious activity to local law enforcement officials," Captain Jesse Moore, base commanding officer, said in a statement soon after the slayings were first reported.

"We are deeply saddened that we lost two shipmates. This is a rare occurrence, and we are going to do everything possible to ensure we find out exactly what happened."

The Coast Guard declined to identify or give any details about the dead until their next of kin had been notified.

The Guardsmen were found fatally shot on Thursday at a communications station on the outskirts of Coast Guard Base Kodiak, about 250 miles southwest of Anchorage.

Authorities were looking for a potential suspect who might be at large, the Coast Guard said. But by day's end, lockdowns and other security precautions placed in effect at nearby schools on Thursday morning had been lifted, school officials said.

Anchorage television station KTUU reported that the two dead were believed to have been shot sometime between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. local time, and that a third individual might have been involved.

Communications Station Kodiak is one of 13 units making up the Kodiak base, which also includes an air station and naval facilities and is the hub of operations for Coast Guard patrol and search-and-rescue missions in the region.

FBI agents will direct the investigation, which is standard at a federal facility, FBI spokesman Eric Gonzalez said in Anchorage. He said there was "no indication that this is related to any kind of terrorist act."

Alaska State Troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters said that state police had also joined the investigation.

The last incident of fatal gun violence at a Coast Guard facility in Alaska occurred in 2001, when the commander of a small, remote station in the Bering Sea was shot to death by a civilian.

The gunman, angry that his civilian wife and the Coast Guard commander were having an affair, was convicted in 2003 of first-degree murder and other charges. At the time, officials said they believed the case marked the first murder of a Coast Guard member ever on Coast Guard property.

About 6,300 people live in Kodiak, the island's main town. The installation is the largest in the Coast Guard system, according to the Kodiak Chamber of Commerce and Kodiak Island Convention and Visitors Bureau.

(Reporting by Yereth Rosen; Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Cynthia Johnston, Cynthia Osterman and Lisa Shumaker)

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