Police blow Wash. mountain bunker, find man dead

Associated Press Modified: April 28, 2012 at 11:00 pm •  Published: April 28, 2012
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NORTH BEND, Wash. (AP) — Peter Keller spent eight years carving his hole in the side of the mountain, camouflaging the rugged underground bunker with ferns and sticks and stocking it with a generator and ammunition boxes sealed in Ziploc bags. Suspected in the deaths of his wife, daughter and pets last weekend, he headed there prepared for the long haul with high-powered rifles, scope and body armor.

Seattle-area tactical officers who slogged for hours over dangerously steep, muddy ground to find him were prepared too. They pumped in tear gas, called for him over bullhorns, and, after 22 hours, set off explosives along the top of the bunker Saturday.

Keller was inside, already dead of a self-inflicted gunshot. A handgun was next to his body.

The 41-year-old hadn't been seen since his wife, Lynnettee, and 18-year-old daughter Kaylene were found shot dead in their home last weekend.

The raid ended a tense week for law enforcement officials who tried to track down Keller, a gun enthusiast described by his family as having a "survivalist mentality." That Keller was likely armed and on the loose in an extremely popular hiking and mountain-biking area east of Seattle kept many people on edge.

"The gas didn't work, we've got fresh people here, it was time to take the next step," said King County Sheriff's Sgt. Katie Larson. "There's been a huge sigh of relief. Our people are out safe, and the trails are now safe for the community to use."

The bunker, tucked into Rattlesnake Ridge, was "amazingly fortified" with at least 13 guns inside, propane tanks, a large gun scope, gas cans and binoculars, said sheriff's Sgt. Cindi West. Photos released by police showed stacks of ammunition in plastic bags on shelves.

SWAT teams spent a grueling seven hours in the Cascade Mountains foothills Friday morning, virtually crawling over terrain slick with mud from recent rains, before they found the bunker. A number of officers were treated intravenously for dehydration, and one broke his ankle, said sheriff's Sgt. Cindi West.

The officers appeared exhausted, their faces smeared with camouflage paint, as they rode down the mountain in sport-utility vehicles or armored carriers to be replaced by fresher teams.

SWAT officers who kept watch on the bunker through Friday night said they saw lights going on and off, and they believed its occupant had everything necessary to remain inside for a long time — including a generator, food, gas mask, bullet-resistant vest and guns.

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