2 shot dead at Coast Guard's Kodiak communications station

Nicole Klauss / AP Photo

Two Coast Guard members were fatally shot Thursday at a communications station on Kodiak Island in what officials said appeared to be a double homicide. They said they have yet to identify a suspect.

The victims were found at their work areas inside the Kodiak Island station early Thursday by another Coast Guard member, spokeswoman Sara Francis said.

While the roughly 60 enlisted personnel and civilians working at the station had been accounted for, Francis said, officials believe a third person was involved in the shooting.

Capt. Jesse Moore, commanding officer of the Coast Guard base on Kodiak, said the shootings likely occurred sometime between 7 and 8 a.m., soon after the two victims arrived for work inside one of the communication station buildings. The captain said he was not aware of any threats or anything else that might have indicated problems at the station. The station is equipped with security cameras, but it was not yet known if they captured any evidence, he said.

Moore said the base was "deeply saddened" by the loss of two shipmates.

"This is a tragic event and we are going to do everything we can to look after the families of victims, to take care of them and to protect the residents and citizens and other Coast Guard employees in Kodiak," Moore said.

A school on Coast Guard property was placed on "lock-in" status, meaning students were not allowed to leave, at about 8:15 a.m., said Kodiak school Superintendent Stewart McDonald.

The district took similar measures at about five other area schools later in the day, he said. But at about 1 p.m., Alaska State Troopers told the district it was safe to release students from classrooms.

McDonald said he had no additional information about the investigation.

"The troopers were saying that there was no need to have a lockdown or lock-in and we could release our kids on time," he said.

Peterson Elementary, the school closest to the base, planned to keep students on site until the regular school day ended, the superintendent said.

The Coast Guard base was also on lockdown Thursday until authorities could ensure no threat exists, according to Coast Guard officials.

"Since we don't have all the details, we strongly advise that all Kodiak residents remain vigilant and to report any suspicious activity to local law enforcement officials," Moore, the captain, said.

About 60 people work at the communications station. It sits three miles north of the Coast Guard's Base Support Unit Kodiak and about eight miles from the city of Kodiak.

Francis, the Guard spokeswoman, said the victims' families had been notified of their deaths. Military policy for all deceased service members prevents the Coast Guard from releasing the victims' names until 24 hours after their deaths, Francis said.

FBI spokesman Eric Gonzalez said a team of agents and other support staff were headed to the island, about 250 miles away. They will be working closely with Alaska State Troopers to investigate the deaths, he said.

"Obviously, to the extent that there's a person responsible still on the loose, that's going to be a priority," Gonzalez said. "Any time there's a crime scene, you run that risk, that the person who committed the crime is still in the area."

Coast Guard officials would not give any identifying characteristics of the victims, such as their gender. Coast Guard officials also declined to say if their investigators or local law enforcement are still searching for a suspected shooter.

"Right now, we're still actively investigating this case," said Chief Petty Officer Kip Wadlow. "We are working with local law enforcement, but anything outside of that, Coast Guard policy prevents me from releasing specific details."

Petty Officer David Mosley, a Coast Guard spokesman, said little information was available during the investigation's early stages.

The station listens for radio transmissions from mariners and aircraft, Petty Officer Charly Hengen said. The staff is responsible for relaying distress calls to other Coast Guard stations and offices.

The station has "secure front doors," Hengen said, and requires staff and visitors to show identification. Francis said visitors and those not actually working at the station are usually provided escorts.

In general, anyone entering the station would be subject to a security check at the station's gate, Mosley said. The spokesman said he could not speak to the level of security at the base or whether the shooter was a member of the Coast Guard or someone else.

Visitors are allowed depending on what business they have at the base, Mosley said.

The shooting rattled Coast Guard personnel, Mosley said.

"Something like this impacts not just the immediate unit but Coast Guard-wide as a family," he said.

Rear Adm. Thomas Ostebo, the commander of Coast Guard operations in Alaska, was in New London, Conn., for a conference at the Coast Guard Academy but left ahead of schedule. Ostebo could not be reached for comment, according to academy spokesman David Santos.

The shooting occurred almost 11 years after another fatal shooting involving the Coast Guard on another Alaska island, St. Paul Island, which is about 660 miles west of the city of Kodiak.

A man killed a Coast Guard officer whom he believed was having an affair with his estranged wife.

Daily News reporters Casey Grove and Kyle Hopkins contributed to this story.

Daily News staff and wire reports