Kiana locked down after man shoots 2 hunters, flees in boat

Kyle Hopkins

The village of Kiana in Northwest Alaska was on lockdown Wednesday after troopers said a man shot two hunters and stole their boat at a remote cabin upriver.

As of about 1 p.m., troopers had arrived at the cabin as well as in Kiana and were preparing to search a roughly 40-mile stretch of terrain for the shooter, the agency said. The attack prompted officials to close the village school and other public buildings.

"No one is supposed to be outdoors except for troopers and those helping the troopers observe and watch ... in case the shooter comes into town," said Norman Eck, superintendent for the Northwest Arctic Borough School District.

Julie Owen of Northern Air Trophy said the hunters -- whom she identified as airline mechanic Paul Buckel of Kotzebue and his brother, Chuck -- were dropped off at Squirrel River on Saturday. The attack came sometime Tuesday night, troopers said.

Troopers were working to identify and locate hunters and travelers in the area while awaiting for about five additional troopers to arrive from Fairbanks on Wednesday afternoon, said spokeswoman Megan Peters. Troopers did not know the shooter's identity or have a description of the man, she said.

Kiana resident Teddy Kyle Smith has been on the run from troopers since the suspicious death of his mother on Sept. 7 in the village. Smith is wanted on an assault charge related to firing a gun in the community after the death of Dolly Smith, 74.

As many as a dozen troopers arrived at the village during the early investigation and manhunt, Trooper Capt. Barry Wilson said at the time.

That force was reduced to one trooper in the following days as authorities received no tips and found no sign of Smith.

Troopers have not said if they suspect Smith attacked the hunters.

"We can't jump to conclusions," spokeswoman Megan Peters said Wednesday morning.

Troopers learned of the shootings at 3:36 a.m.

The trouble began when the hunters, floating down the Squirrel River in an inflatable, stopped at a cabin near the confluence of the Squirrel and Omar rivers, troopers said.

A third man was already inside, staying at the cabin. The man shot both hunters and stole their boat and hunting equipment, according to a trooper account.

He began floating down river, troopers said.

Troopers landed in Kiana, population 375, Wednesday morning, Eck said.

"They're watching the river," he said.

Troopers transported the wounded hunters to Kiana, and one was then flown to Anchorage and one to Kotzebue for treatment.

By Wednesday afternoon, Chuck Buckel was taken to Fairbanks for treatment and was still under evaluation, said Julie Owen. "Paul was shot in the arm and Chuck was shot in the chest," she said.

Kiana is 57 miles east of Kotzebue. Eck, the district superintendent, said all Kiana teachers, staff and students were asked to remain in their homes.

Officials in Noorvik told troopers a lockdown also was in place in that nearby village Wednesday morning, Peters said. By afternoon, Noorvik principal Paul Clark said, buildings appeared to be opened and students were attending class.

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