Coast Guard seaman faces court martial in death of shipmate

The Coast Guard Cutter Douglas Munro sits moored in its homeport in Womens Bay, Kodiak, Alaska, June 22, 2019.
The Coast Guard Cutter Douglas Munro sits moored in its homeport in Kodiak, June 22, 2019. (Public domain photo by Ensign Jacob Marx/U.S. Coast Guard)

The U.S. Coast Guard says a seaman will face a court martial on murder and other charges in the death of a fellow seaman.

Ethan Tucker is charged in the January 2019 death of 19-year-old Seaman Ethan Kelch of Virginia Beach, Virginia, while their vessel — the Kodiak-based Cutter Douglas Munro — was stopped in Unalaska for repairs last winter.

Military prosecutors allege the 21-year-old Tucker, of Ludington, Michigan, beat Kelch and dragged his body to the water where he was left to drown.

During an October hearing, Tucker’s defense attorney, Navy Cmdr. Justin Henderson, painted a very different picture of what happened. Henderson said a bystander took video that night showing Tucker’s efforts to get Kelch out of the water, before he collapsed, exhausted and intoxicated.

According to a Coast Guard spokesperson, the decision to proceed to court martial was made last week.

Tucker is charged with six violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice — including murder, aggravated assault and involuntary manslaughter.

He is currently restricted to the Coast Guard base in Alameda, California. The court martial is expected to take place in 2020.

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