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Charge: Alaska man, 19, shot troopers from behind



ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) -- Authorities say a 19-year-old man shot and killed two Alaska state troopers from behind with an assault rifle as they struggled to arrest his father.

Prosecutors in Alaska charged Nathanial Lee Kangas of the remote village of Tanana with two counts of first-degree murder on Saturday for the deaths of 26-year-old Trooper Gabriel "Gabe" Rich and 45-year-old Sgt. Patrick "Scott" Johnson.

Rich and Johnson, who were not based in the interior community of 238 people, had traveled to Tanana to arrest Kangas' father, Arvin, on charges of driving without a license and threatening the village's unarmed public safety officer.

Authorities say the troopers were talking to Arvin Kangas outside his home when he tried to escape inside. The troopers pursued, and a scuffle ensued. Authorities say that as the men were struggling, Nathanial Kangas shot the troopers.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

The shooting deaths of two Alaska State Troopers devastated their colleagues, who face the same dangers and vulnerabilities as they patrol a tough terrain and remote villages dotted throughout the state.

"This will take us a long time to heal," trooper Col. James Cockrell said Friday. "The department is totally focused more on the families involved. This is a tragedy for them. It's totally unexpected."

The slayings of Trooper Gabriel "Gabe" Rich, 26, and Sgt. Patrick "Scott" Johnson, 45, on Thursday in the isolated community of Tanana underscored the challenges law enforcement faces in this huge state. Like many troopers assigned to patrol multiple villages, Rich and Johnson were not based in the interior community of 238 people. They worked out of the troopers' Fairbanks rural service unit 130 miles to the east, and they had to reach Tanana by plane.

A 19-year-old man has been arrested in connection with the killing of Rich and Johnson, both of whom had appeared on a cable TV reality show about the Alaska State Troopers. Formal charges against Nathanial Lee Kangas of Tanana were being prepared by troopers with the state Office of Special Prosecutions and Appeals. The troopers said they believe he used a semi-automatic rifle in the shootings, which are still under investigation.

The teenager's father, Arvin Kangas, 58, of Tanana, also was arrested. He is charged with assault in connection with a confrontation Wednesday with an unarmed village public safety officer, Mark Haglin.

The elder Kangas was angry about selling a sofa he had not yet been paid for, Cockrell said. At one point, Arvin Kangas pointed a shotgun at Haglin as the public safety officer drove by the suspect's house, troopers said. Village public safety officers are unarmed, but a bill passed by lawmakers this year would allow for the arming of the officers, who serve as first responders in rural communities that can be located hours or days, depending on the weather, from the nearest state trooper.

Reached by telephone, Haglin referred questions to troopers.

Only sketchy details have been released about what transpired before the shootings in the community. No roads lead to Tanana, and travel there is mainly by aircraft. 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. Residents continue to live a traditional Athabascan lifestyle, including hunting and fishing for their food.

Tanana resident Ruby Cruger is related to the Kangas, but she said she did not know the details of the shooting, just that it has affected the entire community.

"They're all shocked," Cruger said of the town's reaction to the shooting.

The troopers arrived in Tanana at about 2:45 p.m. Thursday to serve an arrest warrant on the elder Kangas. Cockrell said the troopers soon encountered the elder Kangas just outside the front door of his home. They were trying to place him under arrest when a struggle erupted, and the three men went inside through the door, where the younger Kangas shot the officers at about 3 p.m., according to troopers.

Shortly after, the village officer notified troopers, saying one of the officers was dead and the other one possibly also. It's not clear what role the village officer played at the scene, although he was in the vicinity when the shootings occurred, Cockrell said.

Nathanial Kangas was arrested soon after. His father ran off to another home and surrendered late Thursday night, according to troopers. Both men are in custody in Fairbanks.

Rich and Johnson were occasionally featured on the National Geographic Channel show "Alaska State Troopers," which features multiple troopers patrolling the state's wild terrain. The troopers were not filming at the time of their deaths. Filming in the fifth season is currently being done with other troopers.

National Geographic said in a statement that it was "incredibly saddened" to learn of the deaths. Spokesman Chris Albert said the troopers are among the many who are subjected to the daily challenges of working in isolated areas of the state, such as Tanana.

Johnson was born in Fairbanks and grew up in the Alaska community of Tok. He was a veteran trooper who joined the force in 1993. He spent his career in Fairbanks and worked a variety of roles, including patrol trooper, field training officer and as a canine officer, instructor and canine unit supervisor. He also had worked as a supervisor of a Fairbanks-area narcotics team. Survivors include his wife and three daughters.

Rich was born in Sayre, Pennsylvania, and grew up in Fairbanks. He first worked as a patrolman with the North Pole Police Department southeast of Fairbanks before deciding to join the troopers in 2011. With the troopers, he spent most of his career on patrol. Survivors include his fiance, their 1-year-old son and his fiance's 8-year-old son. At the time of his death, Rich was in the process of adopting the older boy, troopers said.

Johnson and Rich joined the interior rural unit on Jan. 1. The unit covers 23 villages scattered across a sparse terrain.

Their 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.

Police memorials in Fairbanks, Anchorage and Juneau are being planned to pay tribute to the slain troopers.

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jeanine hutch May 04 2014 at 11:23 AM

Our hearts & prayers go out to the troopers & family. I always said when watching this show how much guts you need to be an officer up there! It takes guts for all officers everywhere but up in Alaska it is something that it hard to believe!!! These men & women go through training that is PAST anything that has to be done here! So many men & women are out there ALONE. It is not like they can get other officers to assist them within less then a minute! You see cop shows & just to stop someone to give them a ticket you have another car(s) within a minute at the stop!! The men & women in Alaska (as in a few other places i'm sure) they are on their own!! God Bless these men and their families. There is a SPECIAL place in Heaven for these two gentlemen and the other 64 officers previous to them. We rely on law enforcement for so many things & thank God they are there.

Flag Reply +7 rate up
Kathryn Wagner May 04 2014 at 10:39 AM

This is so sad, as it would be for anyone to lose their life, but these Troopers have such a vast area to cover and they need the assistance of the PSO's, but they cannot arrest the lawbreakers, that is why the Troopers are needed, even in such remote areas. I have seen them on Nat Geo and send my condolences to their families, their brother Troopers and to the people of the state Alaska for their loss.

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chrlbrw1122 May 04 2014 at 10:35 AM

Ice cold Alaska. Nat Geo will make a new series.. Super State Police Bad father and son..This will teach them driving without a license on unpaved roads.

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3 replies
DOMINIC May 04 2014 at 10:32 AM

WHAT IS GOING ON IN THE USA -POLICE, THAT ARE OUR PROTECTORS AR BEING KILLED BY IDIOTIC MORANS THAT ARE BRINGING DOWN THE LAWS AND JUSTICE AND THE LUCK LUSTER OF OUR JUSTICE SYSTEM AND GREEDY LAWERS ARE AT THE FOREFRONT OF THE RISE IN CRIME + THE RAP MUSIC, MOVIES AND THE MORAL DECAY THAT IS RUNNIND AMOCK INTHE USA -THAT THE REST OF THE WORLD LAUGHS AT OUR JUDICIAL SYSTEM.

I GUESS HE WILL BE JAILED , GIVING 3 MEALS AND A LONG TIAL AND THE CROOCKED LAWYER WILL PLEAD INSANITY AND THE JUDGE WILL AGREE AND LET FREE TO GO AND KILL SOMORE POLICEMEN.

BRING BACK THE OLD WESTERN JUSTICE OF THE 18TH CENTURY - SHOOT HIM ON THE SPOT AND SAVE THE TAX PAYERS LOTS OF DOUGH.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
3 replies
alexnickols May 04 2014 at 10:31 AM

Police aren't too smart. This was stupid. Should have mailed the ticket. Case closed! Dead cop because of many mistaken judgments
, sad.

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4 replies
Nanu-Nanu May 04 2014 at 10:24 AM

My heart grieves for the loss of the two State Troopers, Gabriel Rich and Sgt. Patrick Johnson. Out in the depth and heart of Alaska these Troopers defend the people from this sort of trash. God Bless the Troopers, their families and the entire State Troopers for their selfless devotion to duty to serve and protect.

Flag Reply +3 rate up
Martha May 04 2014 at 10:21 AM

Today is St.Judes' Day. Remember all the fallen officers who's lives were taken in the protection of the people, the community. Without the Thin Blue Line and the laws the attempt to uphold,whether you recognize this or not, your lives would be utter chaos. Think gang bangers at every corner with guns stopping you and robbing you, and thugs like the various factions in Lebanon , and the myriad of troubled countries in Africa who pull over cars ,search your belongings and threaten you ,and kill if they feel you are not acceptable to whatever faction they belong to. Too many take this Line for granted, and worse ,jump on the bandwagon screamimg about all Cops are Pigs when a dirty cop is uncovered sullying all the decent good men and women out their who put their lives on the line daily for you. God Bless and Keep the families of these two men, murdered in cold blood with no chance to defend themselves.And may we remember them .

Flag Reply +3 rate up
ajafullmn May 04 2014 at 10:18 AM

It makes me sick when a police officer is killed. A SWAT team friend of ours was kill in a similar manner. Give the guy the death penalty. Preferably from behind in a surprise attack.

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nfp9907 May 04 2014 at 10:18 AM

I heard it all started over driving without a licence so lets get the facts so whats the real story

Flag Reply +2 rate up
2 replies
still1mdbones nfp9907 May 04 2014 at 10:22 AM

It also had a lot to do with Kangas threatening to shoot the unarmed village public safety officer. That was in the story, did you miss it?

Flag Reply +4 rate up
kcjones53 nfp9907 May 04 2014 at 10:32 AM

FACTS ??? the facts are 2 state troopers are DEAD, the rest is BS, doesnt matter, REAL STORY ??? LOL

Flag Reply +3 rate up
bricklayer May 04 2014 at 10:18 AM

Oh well,,,,Thats what happens when law enforcement wants to be gung ho overboard stupid flagrant things and want to act tough. People who don't care are starting to to say Faaaa You.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
6 replies
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