Two Alaska State Troopers Slain In Tanana

A 19-year-old Tanana man has been arrested in connection with the murder of two Alaska State Troopers on Thursday. The bodies of the two slain law officers were brought to the state medical examiner’s office in Anchorage on Friday, accompanied by a Trooper escort.

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Trooper Sergeant Patrick “Scott” Johnson and Trooper Gabriel “Gabe” Rich were in Tanana on Thursday at the request of the village VPSO. They didn’t leave the village alive.

Nineteen-year-old Nathanial Lee Kangas has been charged with two counts of first degree murder in the shooting death of the two Troopers.

Friday in Anchorage, a shaken Trooper Colonel James Cockrell said members of the department are still in shock over the killings.

“The department is totally focused on the families involved,” Cockrell said. “This is a tragedy for them, it is totally unexpected, and this will take a long time to heal.”

Cockrell described what law enforcement officials know so far about the killings.
Johnson and Rich were stationed at the Fairbanks Rural Unit, and had experience with the villages in their jurisdiction. They were in Tanana Thursday afternoon to serve an arrest warrant on Arvin Morse Kangas, 58, the father of Nathanial Kangas. The elder Kangas had been involved in an altercation with the village VPSO the previous night and had brandished a shotgun at the village officer while driving by the officer’s house. That act prompted VPSO Mark Haglin to call for support.

“Troopers arrived in Tanana about 2:45 yesterday afternoon,” Cockrell said. “Troopers made contact with Arvin Kangas near the front door of his residence. While attempting to place Kangas under arrest, a struggle ensued. This resulted in all three entering the residence. While inside the residence, both troopers were shot and killed by Nathanial, the son of Arvin.”

Cockrell said that events are still being investigated, and that he was unsure of who witnessed the crime, other than those involved. Cockrell said that after Johnson and Rich were shot, it appears that VPSO Haglin took Nathanial Kangas in.

“We’re not totally certain,” Cockrell said. “We do know that approximately 15 minutes after the shooting, we had a report that Nathanial Kangas was in custody in back of the VPSO patrol vehicle.”

Troopers were notified by a phone call at 3:10 Thursday afternoon by the VPSO that there was one Trooper dead and another possibly dead.

Backup Troopers reached the village about 6 p.m. Thursday. Arvin Kangas turned himself in around 10:30 last night. He and Nicholas Kangas are now being held in Fairbanks.

Cockrell said Friday that Nathanial Kangas committed the killings with a semi-automatic rifle, but would not comment on the number of rounds fired. He said it appears that Johnson and Rich had not fired their guns.

“To my knowledge, it doesn’t appear so,” Cockrell said.

Law enforcement officials are preparing charging documents in the case with the help of the Office of Special Prosecutions and Appeals, Cockrell said. The younger Kangas is being charged with two counts of murder, and one count of assault. The elder Kangas is being charged with assault and driving with a revoked license.

Investigators remain on scene in Tanana to collect evidence and interview members of the community in regards to the killings of Johnson and Rich.

Johnson was 45 years old and had 21 years with the Troopers. He leaves behind his wife and three daughters. Rich was 26 and had been on the force for three years. He leaves behind his fiancee and their one year old child.

Separate memorial funds have been set up for the families of both men.

APTI Reporter-Producer Ellen Lockyer started her radio career in the late 1980s, after a stint at bush Alaska weekly newspapers, the Copper Valley Views and the Cordova Times. When the Exxon Valdez ran aground in Prince William Sound, Valdez Public Radio station KCHU needed a reporter, and Ellen picked up the microphone.
Since then, she has literally traveled the length of the state, from Attu to Eagle and from Barrow to Juneau, covering Alaska stories on the ground for the AK show, Alaska News Nightly, the Alaska Morning News and for Anchorage public radio station, KSKA
elockyer (at) alaskapublic (dot) org  |  907.550.8446 | About Ellen

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