Search for suspect in Kodiak slayings continues

Casey Grove

A killer was still on the loose Saturday after shooting to death two men at a Coast Guard communications station on Kodiak Island on Thursday, the FBI says.

Still, FBI spokesman Eric Gonzalez said Saturday that residents of the island, about 250 miles south of Anchorage, do not appear to be at risk.

"Right now, there's no credible evidence that the community as a whole is in danger. However we continue to counsel them to be vigilant and report any suspicious activity to police," Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez would not say why the FBI believes island residents are not in danger.

The Thursday morning shootings killed Petty Officer 1st Class James Hopkins, a 41-year-old electronics technician, and Richard Belisle, a 51-year-old civilian employee and retired Coast Guard chief petty officer.

Gonzalez said Saturday that investigators believe the shooter is still alive and that no suspect is in custody. He would not say if a suspect had been identified.

The men were likely shot between 7 and 8 a.m. Thursday, according to the Coast Guard. Another Coast Guard member discovered the bodies. Security levels were raised at a much larger Coast Guard base nearby and local schools kept students indoors as the investigation began.

The Coast Guard says about 60 people work at the communications station. The facility is about three miles from the Coast Guard's Base Support Unit, occupied by 4,000 men and women outside the city of Kodiak. The station listens to long-range communications from planes and ships and relays information to other Coast Guard personnel.

Gonzalez declined to answer specific questions about the ongoing investigation. Releasing details could harm investigators' chances of catching the killer, he said.

"The integrity of the investigation dictates that we can't say much about what we're doing," Gonzalez said.

A team of FBI agents is working with the Coast Guard's Investigative Services, the Kodiak Alaska State Troopers and Kodiak police to bring the person responsible for the deaths to justice, Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez said the team is "conducting logical investigative steps."

"Certainly, interviews are part of that," he said. "We've been interviewing a number of people."

Coast Guard spokeswoman Petty Officer Charly Hengen said residents should be aware of their surroundings, have a heightened sense of security, and if they see anything suspicious, report it to law enforcement.

"There could be (a suspect) still out there. We don't know," Hengen said. "That's why we're encouraging residents to be extra vigilant when they're out ... whether someone's going to the grocery store, going on a hike, whatever they need to do during the course of a day."

Hengen would not comment on whether Coast Guard personnel were being interviewed by the investigators, nor would she comment on the possibility any Coast Guard members might be considered suspects.

The communications station was operating shortly after the shootings, though the area was still cordoned off and considered a crime scene Saturday, Hengen said.

"We are continuing our operations, because we handle a 24-7 watch," she said. "So there's no work interruption there."

Hengen said the close-knit Coast Guard community was "deeply saddened" by the deaths of their fellow Coast Guard members.

Reach Casey Grove at or 257-4589.

Anchorage Daily News