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Coast Guardsman charged with murder in January death of fellow crew member

Handcuffs. (Keith Allison/Flickr)

An Alameda-based Coast Guard seaman was arrested Wednesday and is being held at the Miramar Consolidated Brig, charged with the January death of a fellow Coast Guardsman in Alaska.

Seaman Ethan W. Tucker, 19, is charged in the beating death of Seaman Ethan Kelch, who was 19. Both men were stationed on board the Alameda-based cutter Douglas Munro.

According to a Coast Guard charge sheet, Tucker hit Kelch in the head and left him in the water around Amaknak Island, part of the Aleutian Islands. After an extensive search, Kelch was found unresponsive on Jan. 27 on the west side of the island, according to a January Navy Times report.

Tucker allegedly injured his hand in the attack but told investigators it was a result of “punching a steel bulkhead after learning of (Kelch’s) death,” the charge sheet says.

Tucker was charged with murder, involuntary manslaughter, aggravated assault, maiming, obstructing justice and making false official statements.

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An Article 32 hearing — the military equivalent of a grand jury hearing — will be in two to four months, a Coast Guard spokesman said, adding that a decision has not yet been made about whether Tucker would be tried in San Diego or Alameda.

In a statement, the Coast Guard said it has been working since Kelch’s death to bring justice to his family.

“Since our shipmate’s untimely passing, we have been in contact with his family to provide as much support as possible throughout this tragic and difficult time,” Lt. Cmdr Stephen Brinkey said in the statement. “The charges today are the result of the Coast Guard’s steadfast desire to gather all the facts and seek justice.”

Kelch was from Virginia Beach, Virginia, according to his obituary.

Tucker is originally from Ludington, Michigan, the Coast Guard said.

Coast Guard Pacific Area Commander Vice Adm. Linda Fagan is the convening authority for the court-martial.

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© 2019 The San Diego Union-Tribune