Man convicted in Tanana trooper killings sentenced to 203 years in prison

Nathanial Kangas charged in a Fairbanks court on May 3, 2014. (Photo courtesy of KTUU)
Nathanial Kangas charged in a Fairbanks court on May 3, 2014. (Photo courtesy of KTUU)

The man convicted of killing two Alaska State Troopers in the Interior village of Tanana in 2014 was sentenced Wednesday to 203 years in jail.

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22-year-old Nathanial Kangas was convicted for the murders of Sgt. Scott Johnson and trooper Gabe Rich.

“It was very, very emotional and I think after the sentence there was somewhat a sigh of relief too,” Colonel James Cockrell, director of the Alaska State Troopers, said. “And because, again, I think it helps in the healing process.”

Cockrell says the courtroom was filled with law enforcement, community members and the families of the slain Troopers.

Nathanial Kangas was convicted in May on two counts of 1st degree murder, and one count of 3rd degree assault.

Cockrell said he is satisfied with the trial’s outcome.

“There’s not any more serious crime that you can have to premeditatedly kill two law enforcement officers who are acting within the scope of their duties in a professional way,” Cockrell said. “There was nothing that we did that provoked the actions of Nathanial Kangas shooting both of our troopers in an ambush.”

Each murder charge carries a mandatory 99-year sentence, and the assault charge carries an additional five.

Kangas also faces fines and more than $2.5 million in restitution payments.

Cockrell said the Troopers’ deaths accentuate the need to cultivate stronger relationships between law enforcement and local communities.

“Because it doesn’t matter the amount of training that you have when you’re in an ambush situation, you’re essentially, you can’t train for that and you still have to be free and open to contact citizens and you can’t always be on your guard,” Cockrell said. “And certainly they have an upper hand, so the more we work within our communities I think the better off we are as an agency, the more effective we are.”

Nathanial Kangas was convicted of shooting the troopers when they came to Tanana to arrest his father, Arvin Kangas, who had threatened a village safety officer with a rifle.

Arvin Kangas is serving time for evidence tampering and is and is eligible for parole in several years.

Fairbanks Superior Court Judge Paul Lyle ordered no contact between the father and son in order to ensure the safety of correction officers.

Nathanial Kangas spoke briefly at the sentencing, apologizing for the killings.

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