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Kotlik in lockdown after gunman reportedly occupies school

A teenager in the village of Kotlik allegedly armed himself with a butcher knife last Friday and tried to force his way into the village school.
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The lower Yukon village of Kotlik is in lockdown and school is canceled for the day after a report that a gunman entered the school on Feb. 16. He is still believed to be inside the school. Nobody is injured, and troopers say that they’re on their way.

According to the Kotlik school principal, Xavier Downs, a security officer was patrolling the school on the night of Feb. 16 when he saw an intruder, a man with a rifle, inside the building. The security officer was able to leave the school and call Downs, who then called troopers around midnight on Feb. 17. The principal said that troopers have not arrived yet.

Alaska State Troopers spokesperson Tim Despain told KYUK over the phone on Feb. 17 that troopers were aware of the report and were trying to reach Kotlik. Despain said that “weather is a factor” for troopers in Bethel, and that troopers from other posts may get involved. The National Weather Service has issued a winter weather advisory for the Kuskokwim Delta until 5 p.m. on Feb. 17.

Kotlik City Manager Tanya Hunt said that the community has no active public safety officers to respond to this incident. Hunt said that Kotlik has one village police officer, but she has been on maternity leave for the past seven months.

“This is very hard because we don't have anybody certified to go detain him, or we don't know where he's at. I don't know if he's still in the school. Wouldn’t want to put anybody that's not certified or trained to go try to detain him until the troopers come,” Hunt said. “It makes me nervous that someone's roaming around with a rifle.”

Downs said that community members who live near the school are keeping watch on the gunman. They believe that the man is still inside the school. The principal said that the man who community members believe to be the gunman is in his late 30s and is unaffiliated with the school. Downs said that he does not know why or how the gunman entered the school.

Until troopers arrive, Hunt says that Kotlik will remain in lockdown.

Greg Kim was a news reporter for KYUK from 2019-2022.
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