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Alaska man arrested in killings of two Coast Guard workers

by

By Yereth Rosen

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) - A former coworker has been arrested for fatally shooting two U.S. Coast Guard employees last year on Kodiak Island in Alaska, federal officials said on Friday.

James Michael Wells of Kodiak will appear in federal court sometime next week in Anchorage to face charges of killing Coast Guard electricians Mate First Class James Hopkins and retired Chief Boatswain's Mate Richard Belisle, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.

Hopkins and Belisle were shot dead on April 12 at the Coast Guard's communications station on Kodiak Island, part of the large Coast Guard base complex on that Alaska island. Hopkins was an enlisted Guard member and Belisle was a civilian employee.

Wells, a civilian, worked with the victims in 2011 at a Coast Guard project on Shemya Island in the Aleutians, according to the Coast Guard. According to a Coast Guard newsletter from that year, the three were part of a team erecting communications equipment on the remote island.

Prosecutors did not say where Wells was being held or if he had an attorney.

The base on Kodiak Island, about 250 miles southwest of Anchorage, is one of the largest facilities in the Coast Guard system. The base has about 1,300 residents and is next to the city of Kodiak, which has about 6,100 residents, according to state population statistics.

The Kodiak murders were the first on any Coast Guard property in the United States since 2001. That year, a local man on Alaska's remote St. Paul Island shot and killed the commander of the Coast Guard station there. Carl Merculief Jr. was convicted in 2003 of first-degree murder in the shooting death of Chief Warrant Officer Timothy Harris.

(Reporting by Yereth Rosen; Editing by Mary Wisniewski and Lisa Shumaker)

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