A 19-year-old man and his father were arrested in connection with the fatal shooting of two Alaska State Troopers who were conducting an investigation in a small, isolated village.
Police said Friday they arrested Nathaniel Lee Kangas in the killing of Sgt. Patrick “Scott” Johnson and trooper Gabriel “Gabe” Rich. The pair had just arrived Thursday in Tanana, about 130 miles west of Fairbanks, to follow up on a report of a firearm being brandished.
Kangas was detained following the shooting, although investigators did not immediately provide a motive. Formal charges were being prepared, police said.
His father, Arvin Morse Kangas, 58, was later arrested and charged with fourth-degree assault and driving with a revoked license, police said.
After the shooting, troopers in full SWAT gear had surrounded a small brown house where the elder Kangas was holed up with a gun, according to local reports.
He was arrested without incident before 10:30 p.m. local time, reported the Alaska Dispatch.
Alaska State Troopers
Alaska State Troopers badge.
Gov. Sean Parnell said in a statement that he and his wife, Sandy, "were deeply saddened to learn of the senseless, brutal crime that took the lives of two of Alaska's finest. These fallen heroes answered the call to serve and protect, and made the ultimate sacrifice, while keeping our communities safe."
No roads lead to Tanana and travel there is mainly by aircraft. Residents lived a largely subsistence lifestyle before Tanana was incorporated in 1961. During World War II, an airport was established near the village for refueling.
Johnson and Rich had arrived Thursday via Cessna Caravan. They were known in the community as members of the state troopers’ Fairbanks rural service unit. Both men had appeared in multiple episodes of the National Geographic show “Alaska State Troopers.”
“It’s going to be a black eye on the community,” Tanana City Councilman Pat Moore told the Dispatch. “I never expected anything like this to happen.”
Ruby Cruger, manager of the Tanakon Bed and Breakfast, told NBC affiliate KTUU that the troopers were shot while she was heading to her aunt’s house nearby.
“So, I was heading up there to go visit my aunt, and so I was just not too far away from there when I seen people running,” Cruger said. “A young kid, a young adult shot the troopers — that's all I know.”
An Alaska Bureau of Investigation crew was headed to Tanana, Peters said.
The village has a population of about 238, The Associated Press reported. Because of the location of the village, about two miles west of the junction of the Tanana and Yukon rivers, the community was a trading post for Koyukon and Tanana Athabascans long before European contact, according to a state website.
— Alastair Jamieson, Christopher Nelson and Sossy Dombourian
First published May 2 2014, 12:32 AM