Alaska News

Elmendorf general shot himself, report says

A military investigation into the death last summer of Brig. Gen. Thomas L. Tinsley has concluded that the commander of the 3rd Wing at Elmendorf Air Force Base died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest.

The review by the Air Force Office of Special Investigation was consistent with the initial assessment into the death of Tinsley, who was found by his wife and daughter in their home on base on the evening of July 27.

Toxicology findings coupled with an autopsy determined there was alcohol in his system, but tests for other substances were negative, according to a statement released by the Elmendorf public information office.

Investigators found no suicide note or any other indication that the death was pre-meditated, the Air Force said. Nor did the investigation reveal any money problems or other issues that indicate a motive leading to the general's death.

"Pugs Tinsley was a remarkable officer with a reputation for excellence and tremendous love for his airmen and his family," Gen. Howie Chandler, Pacific Air Forces commander, said in the statement. "One of the tragic aspects of this event is that we are unlikely to ever fully understand his actions that evening."

Tinsley, 45, is survived by his wife, Joanna, a college-age daughter and a teenage nephew he was helping raise. A statement released by the family expressed sadness and lingering bewilderment at his passing.

"The Tinsley family still has no better understanding of this life-altering event in their lives," the statement said. "To lose him as a leader is immense; to lose him as a husband, father, brother and son is immeasurable."


Tinsley had served as wing commander since May 2007, overseeing more than 6,000 people at Alaska's largest Air Force base. A memorial service for the general was held at Elmendorf on July 31.

Find George Bryson online at or call 257-4318.


George Bryson

George Bryson was a longtime writer and editor at the Anchorage Daily News.