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Authorities: Bunker of Wash. fugitive surrounded

Associated Press Modified: April 27, 2012 at 11:45 pm •  Published: April 27, 2012
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NORTH BEND, Wash. (AP) — Authorities on Friday surrounded an elaborate, underground bunker believed to be that of a gun-toting survivalist suspected of killing his wife and daughter nearly a week ago and then holing up in the woods of Washington state.

They pumped tear gas into the structure in the Cascade foothills east of Seattle and heard movement inside, but the dozens of officers were not entering the bunker because they believed its occupant was heavily armed, and that it might be booby-trapped.

Sheriff's officials said later Friday they weren't sure the gas penetrated deep enough to reach the person inside, who they believed was 41-year-old Peter Keller. They also believed the person inside likely has a gas mask.

As darkness fell Friday night, Seattle SWAT team officers arrived to relieve a King County SWAT contingent that had surrounded the bunker.

Photos of the bunker "don't do it justice," SWAT officers told sheriff's spokeswoman Sgt. Cindi West.

"They said the fort appears to be amazingly fortified," she said.

While officers got one main hatch open, they believe the bunker has multiple levels as well as multiple entrances, West said.

Keller has not been seen since a fire at his North Bend-area home Sunday led responders to discover the bodies of his wife and daughter. The two had been shot to death.

"It's a very extreme tactical situation," King County Sheriff Steve Strachan said. "Time is on our side. We're not going to do anything rash."

West said evidence found in Keller's home helped authorities locate the bunker, dug 20 feet into the side of a ridge in an area of dense vegetation, at noon Friday. Officers were able to pinpoint the location after enhancing a blurry photograph found on a hard drive in an open safe in Keller's house, she said. The photo included a view from the bunker in which buildings in nearby North Bend were visible, along with a set of power lines.

Detectives triangulated the rough area of the bunker and were confident they had the right location after receiving tips from people who had seen Keller's faded red pickup truck parked at the trailhead, West said.

Two experienced trackers were sent to the area and found tracks that appeared to have been made by someone carrying a heavy backpack.

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