News24

2 US Coast Guard members shot dead

2012-04-13 08:57

Anchorage - Two members of the US Coast Guard were shot dead at an air base on Kodiak Island off Alaska, prompting an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and a lockdown of the base and nearby schools, officials said on Thursday.

The FBI said there was no immediate evidence of terrorist intent or sabotage, but a security alert was in force at the installation because the circumstances surrounding the deaths were unclear.

The deaths marked the first fatal shootings at a Coast Guard facility in Alaska in more than a decade.

"Since we don't have all the details, we strongly advise that all Kodiak residents remain vigilant and report any suspicious activity to local law enforcement officials," Captain Jesse Moore, base commanding officer, said in a statement.

"We are deeply saddened that we lost two shipmates. This is a rare occurrence, and we are going to do everything possible to ensure we find out exactly what happened."

The Coast Guard declined to identify or give any details about the victims until their next of kin had been notified.

Terrorism unlikely

The Guardsmen were found fatally shot on Thursday at a communications centre of the Coast Guard Base Kodiak, about 400km southwest of Anchorage. Authorities were looking for a potential suspect who might be at large, the Coast Guard said.

Nearly 1 000 active-duty personnel and hundreds of civilians are based at the Kodiak installation, which consists of an air station and naval facilities and is the centre of operations for Coast Guard patrol and search-and-rescue missions in the region.

FBI agents will direct the investigation, which is standard at a federal facility, FBI spokesperson Eric Gonzalez said in Anchorage. He said there was "no indication that this is related to any kind of terrorist act".

Alaska State Troopers spokesperson Megan Peters said that state police had also joined the investigation.

The last incident of fatal gun violence at a Coast Guard facility in Alaska occurred in July 2001, when the commander of a small, remote station in the Bering Sea was shot to death by a civilian.

The gunman, angry that his civilian wife and the Coast Guard commander were having an affair, was convicted in 2003 of first-degree murder and other charges. At the time, officials said they believed the case marked the first murder of a Coast Guard member ever on Coast Guard property.

About 6 300 people live in Kodiak, the island's main town. The installation is the largest in the Coast Guard system, according to the Kodiak Chamber of Commerce and Kodiak Island Convention and Visitors Bureau.