Seaman Ethan Tucker, of Ludington, Mich., was charged with several violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), including murder, involuntary manslaughter, aggravated assault, maiming, obstructing justice, making a false official statement and failure to obey a regulation, the Coast Guard Pacific Area Public Affairs said.
Tucker was charged Wednesday after the branch conducted a seven-month investigation into the death of Seaman Ethan Kelch, 19, who was found unresponsive Jan. 27 along the shore of Amaknak Island. Kelch, a native of Virginia Beach, Va., was said to have been hit in the head before being left for dead in the water, according to Tucker’s charging document.
Responders performed CPR, but Kelch was pronounced dead at a nearby clinic.
Tucker allegedly said he injured his hand when he punched a steel bulkhead upon learning about Kelch’s death, the charging document stated.
Both seamen had been assigned to the Coast Guard Cutter Munro, which had been docked in Dutch Harbor for repairs.
Coast Guard Senior Petty Officer NyxoLyno Cangemi told The Associated Press the seamen worked together in various jobs while assigned to the Munro.
“As both were seamen aboard the ship, they would have quite a bit of interactions with each other in the duties,” Cangemi said.
Tucker was transferred to the Alameda, Calif., Coast Guard base in June after the investigation had been launched, Cangemi said, and was assigned to the security division there.
“He was being investigated at the time, but working in the security division allowed him appropriate supervision by base security,” Cangemi said.
If he’s found guilty, Tucker could face life in prison, dishonorable discharge from the military and forfeiture of all his pay and allowances.
Tucker was being held at Naval Consolidated Brig Miramar in San Diego, where he’s awaiting an Article 32 hearing to determine if there will be a court-martial trial.
“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 Brickey said in a statement. “The charges today are the result of the Coast Guard’s steadfast desire to gather all the facts and seek justice.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.