FBI, volunteers search Coast Guard station in Alaska murder case

Reuters News
Posted: May 02, 2012 6:23 PM

By Yereth Rosen

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) - Scores of volunteers on Wednesday helped the FBI search Alaska's Kodiak Island near a U.S. Coast Guard communications station where two workers were killed in April, looking for clues in the still-unsolved case.

An FBI spokesman declined to say what the roughly 120 volunteers were looking for in the search, which comes three weeks after the two men were found shot to death inside the station on the Coast Guard's sprawling base on Kodiak Island, about 250 miles southwest of Anchorage.

The slayings of Petty Officer First Class James Hopkins and retired Chief Petty Officer Richard Belisle marked the first fatal shootings at a Coast Guard facility since 2001, when a civilian on remote St. Paul Island in Alaska shot and killed the commander of the Coast Guard station there.

"We've got to cover a large area of ground and we just thought it was the easiest way to get a large number of eyes on the ground," FBI Special Agent Eric Gonzalez said of the volunteer search.

Those helping out were told to look for "anything inorganic that you wouldn't expect to see out there, anything out of the ordinary," he said. The call for searchers included a request for metal detectors.

No arrests have been made in the case and no suspects were publicly named. However, the FBI has concluded that the island community of Kodiak is safe, Gonzalez said.

"Based on the investigation to date, there's nothing to indicate that the community itself or anyone else is in danger," he said.

Gonzalez declined to comment on news reports that investigators had searched the Kodiak home of one of the victims' co-workers, and he would not say if authorities had identified a suspect.

(Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Will Dunham)