ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Two Alaska State Troopers were shot and killed Thursday when they were conducting an investigation in the Interior Alaska village of Tanana, the agency and a local shopkeeper said.
Killed were Sgt. Patrick “Scott” Johnson and trooper Gabriel “Gabe” Rich, agency spokeswoman Megan Peters said in a release. Both worked out of the troopers’ Fairbanks rural service unit.
Troopers have released few details about the incident in the isolated community located about 130 miles west of Fairbanks. No roads lead to Tanana and travel there is mainly by aircraft. Residents live a largely subsistence lifestyle.
According to a Friday news release from Peters, two men have been taken into custody in Tanana by the Alaska State Troopers. Arvin Morse Kangas, 58 of Tanana, was charged with Assault in the 4th Degree and Driving with a License Revoked. These charges stem from an incident with a Tanana VPSO on April 30, 2014. Nathanial Lee Kangas, 19 of Tanana, is under arrest for the murder of Johnson and Rich. Formal charges for Nathanial Kangas are being prepared by the Alaska State Troopers with the help of the Office of Special Prosecutions and Appeals.
The troopers had gone to Tanana to follow up on a Wednesday night report that someone “had brandished a firearm in the village,” Peters said, adding she didn’t immediately have any further details of what happened.
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.”
Ruby Cruger said the shooting happened at her aunt’s home on Front Street just about 3 p.m. Thursday. She said her aunt wasn’t home at the time, but a relative of her aunt’s shot the troopers inside the home.
Cruger, who spoke to The Associated Press by telephone from the village store, said she didn’t have any other details, other than to say her aunt was sitting outside her home Thursday evening waiting for troopers to clear.
“She’s not leaving there. It’s her house,” Cruger said.
“All the troopers and everybody is up there, but you can’t get close to the crime scene,” she said.
More troopers continued to arrive Thursday evening, she said.
“All I know, we have more SWAT people coming in,” she said.
An Alaska Bureau of Investigation crew was headed to Tanana, Peters said earlier in the evening.
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.
About 238 community members continue to live a traditional Athabascan lifestyle, including hunting and fishing for their food.
The deaths came the same day the name of Manokotak village public safety officer Thomas Madole was added to the Indian Country Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Artesia, New Mexico.
Madole was shot and killed March 19, 2013, while responding to a domestic violence call in the Alaska Native village.
Before Thursday, 64 law enforcement officers had been killed in the line of duty since 1897 in Alaska, according to information previously provided by the Alaska State Troopers.
Associated Press reporter Kathy McCarthy contributed to this report from Seattle.