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Coast Guard shooting victims identified in Alaska; killer sought

April 13, 2012|By Kim Murphy
  • U.S. Coast Guard Communications Station Kodiak
U.S. Coast Guard Communications Station Kodiak (Nicole Klauss/Kodiak Daily…)

SEATTLE -- The two U.S. Coast Guard workers who were shot to death at a remote communications station on the island of Kodiak, Alaska, were identified Friday, with authorities calling the shooting a double homicide and continuing their search for the killer.

Coast Guard officials identified the victims, discovered in a secure facility Thursday morning, as Petty Officer 1st Class James Hopkins, an electronics technician, and Richard Belisle, a civilian employee and retired Coast Guard chief petty officer.

“As an organization with roots in saving lives and a focus on protecting people, this tragic event has shocked us all,” Rear Adm. Thomas Ostebo, commander of the 17th Coast Guard District in Alaska, said in a statement. “My thoughts and prayers are with the victim's families, their loved ones and the entire Kodiak community.”

Investigators led by the FBI would say very little about the investigation, but they downplayed any potential threat to the island of 13,000 residents in southern Alaska.

"Kodiak is an island, a small community, and right now there's no evidence to suggest that the community is in any kind of immediate threat," FBI spokesman Eric Gonzalez told the Los Angeles Times.

He said FBI agents are working in coordination with Coast Guard investigators and Alaska State Troopers, but he would not say whether a suspect had been identified. "We're working very hard to find the person responsible for these killings," he said.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said the department has placed a high priority on solving the crime and bringing the perpetrator to justice.

"I have directed the full resources of the department to support the investigation into this terrible tragedy, and we are working closely to support our federal, state and law enforcement partners," she said in a statement. "All of us across DHS join in solidarity with the families and colleagues of the fallen, and our larger Coast Guard and DHS family, as we cope with this senseless act of violence."

Megan Peters, spokeswoman for the state troopers, said officials are still advising the public to be alert. "We encourage the people there to remain vigilant of their surroundings and remain aware of what is going on around them, and if there is anything suspicious, they should report it to local law enforcement,” she said.

The Kodiak Daily Mirror said parents waited outside a locked-down elementary school on the Coast Guard base near the communications station Thursday as students were released one by one at the end of the school day. Law enforcement vehicles blocked access to the base.

Coast Guard officials have said all 60 people employed at the communications station, about three miles north of the main Coast Guard base, have been accounted for.

“The Coast Guard has been informed by the FBI that they are treating this investigation as a double homicide. There is no evidence to suggest these deaths are the result of a murder suicide,” the Coast Guard said in a statement.

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kim.murphy@latimes.com

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