Two Alaska State Troopers fatally shot in Tanana Thursday afternoon were killed with a semi-automatic rifle during a struggle, AST announced Friday.
At a press conference held by Alaska Department of Public Safety Commissioner Gary Folger and AST Director Col. James Cockrell, troopers released their first detailed account of the Thursday deaths of Sgt. Patrick "Scott" Johnson and Trooper Gabriel "Gabe" Rich.
An investigation is still under way in the Interior community a hundred-plus miles west of Fairbanks, Nathanial Lee Kangas, 19, was arrested for allegedly shooting Sgt. Patrick "Scott" Johnson and Trooper Gabriel "Gabe" Rich.
Arvin Morse Kangas, 58, was arrested for an outstanding warrant and charged with fourth-degree assault and driving with a revoked license. The charges stem from an April 30 incident involving a Tanana village public safety officer.
According to a written statement from Cockrell distributed at the press conference, Tanana VPSO Mark Haglin had a confrontation with Arvin Kangas Wednesday night which involved Kangas "pointing a shotgun at VPSO Haglin as he drove by his residence."
Haglin called the Fairbanks AST office for backup, with Johnson and Rich arriving at about 2:45 p.m. Thursday.
"Troopers made contact with Arvin Kangas near the front door of his residence," Cockrell wrote. "While attempting to place Kangas under arrest a struggle ensued, this resulted in all three entering into the Kangas' residence. While inside the residence both troopers were shot and killed by Nathanial Kangas."
While Nathanial Kangas was taken into custody shortly afterward, Arvin Kangas fled to a local home and didn't surrender to troopers until about 10:25 p.m. Thursday. Both were taken to Fairbanks.
Charges pending against Nathanial Kangas as of Friday afternoon include two counts of first-degree murder, as well as one count of third-degree assault for actions allegedly taken against Haglin. He is expected to be arraigned at 1:30 p.m. Saturday in Fairbanks.
Cockrell concludes the statement by calling for the public to "respect the wishes of the families," as the DPS community rallies around them and tries to cope with what he calls "a senseless act."
"Currently department members are dealing with shock and disbelief trying to make sense of Sergeant Johnson and Trooper Rich's deaths," Cockrell wrote. "We are currently providing support for the involved families and all our personnel in Fairbanks. This is certainly a difficult time for DPS members, especially falling on the hells of three line-of-duty deaths we experienced in 2013."
Last year, Trooper Tage Toll and pilot Mel Nading were killed along with snowmachiner Carl Ober in the March 30 crash of Helo-1 near Talkeetna. In addition, troopers say Manokotak VPSO Thomas Madole was fatally shot by Leroy B. Dick Jr. as Madole investigated reports that Dick was suicidal.
While the beginning of a case against the suspects is still in its formative stages, outpourings of support for the fallen officer have already begun.
A group of troopers and law enforcement officers plan a procession in Anchorage Friday at 12:45 p.m., starting at 3600 Old International Airport Drive, where the bodies of the deceased officers will arrive. The procession ends at 5455 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, the location of the State Medical Examiner's Office.
There will also be a 24-hour vigil conducted by the Alaska State Troopers and other law enforcement officers.
Anyone who wants to help the families of the fallen officers is asked to send donations to memorial funds established by the Alaska Concerns of Police Survivors at Wells Fargo Bank:
Sergeant Scott Johnson Memorial Fund: Account Number 6157331387
Trooper Gabe Rich Memorial Fund: Account Number 6157331379