Prosecutors in Alaska have charged a 19-year-old Tanana man with two counts of first degree murder in the deaths of two Alaska State Troopers last week.
Nathanial Lee Kangas was formally charged in a Fairbanks court Saturday for the deaths of 26-year-old Trooper Gabriel “Gabe” Rich and 45-year-old Trooper Sergeant Patrick “Scott” Johnson.
Rich and Johnson were not based in Tanana, but had traveled there to arrest Kangas’ father, Arvin, on prior charges of driving without a license and threatening the community’s unarmed village public safety officer with a gun.
KSKA’s Ellen Lockyer reports that troopers were talking to Arvin Kangas outside his home Thursday when he tried to escape inside.
“Troopers made contact with Arvin Kangas near the front door of his residence,” Trooper Colonel James Cockrell said Friday. “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.”
Court records show Kangas allegedly then pointed the gun at the VPSO, who had come along with the troopers for the arrest. Documents show Kangas lowered the gun and allowed the officer to escape. The two Kangas men fled the home but were eventually detained by the VPSO and other community members.
Kangas faces up to 200 years in prison if convicted. The court declared him a flight risk, and set bail at $4 million.
Over the weekend the bodies of two Troopers were taken from the medical examiner’s office in Anchorage to Fairbanks, accompanied by a procession of Troopers from the airstrip to the funeral home.
KUAC’s Dan Bross reports that, for residents in the Athabascan community of about 300, the shooting has been devastating.
“I think everybody is still in shock. I think everybody, uh, is still blown away by what happened,” said City Mayor Donna Folger Saturday. She said residents were already grieving following the death of a local elder. A burial was to take place Friday for that elder, but she also wanted to recognize the State Troopers.
“Honor them (for) going out of our community,” she said solemnly. “It’s so sad!”
Folger said she planned to hold a village meeting Saturday for local residents to grieve and address the aftermath of the shooting.
KSKA, KUAC, and The Associated Press contributed information to this story.