Authorities in Alaska are searching for a suspect after two people were shot to death inside a supposedly secure Coast Guard communications center on the southwestern Alaskan island of Kodiak on Thursday.
The two victims were found inside their work station. Monitoring long range communications between aircraft and maritime traffic, the communications center where the bodies of the two men were found at is about three miles away from the main Coast Guard installation on the island, which houses about 4000 personnel.
The deceased have been identified as Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class James Hopkins and Richard Belisle- a civilian employee. Belisle was also a retired Coast Guard petty officer before working as a civilian employee.
Investigators believe the men were shot sometime between 7 and 8 am on Thursday. Security levels were raised at the larger Coast Guard base and some of the local schools were put into lockdown as police searched the area.
According to an FBI spokesman, evidence at the crime scene indicated that the deaths were not part of a murder-suicide. Local police, Alaska state troopers, Federal agents and Coast Guard Investigative Service agents were still combing the island for a suspect on the weekend.
FBI spokesman Eric Gonzalez said Saturday that residents of the island, about 250 miles south of Anchorage, do not appear to be at risk.Authorities have also declined make public a possible motive for the two murders. Since Kodiak Island is only accessible by sea and air, its thought that the gunman is most likely still on the island.
"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.
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.
Life on Kodiak Island with the Coast Guard has been the subject of a reality show on The Weather Channel called (appropriately enough) Coast Guard: Alaska that had recently been renewed for another season. The show highlights the remote and dangerous nature of some of the search and rescue missions flown from the island.