Nearly 6,500 law enforcement officers and community members attended the memorial for two slain Alaska State Troopers Saturday.
Friends, family members, and fellow law enforcement officers remembered AST Sergeant Scott Johnson and trooper Gabe Rich at a memorial service that left many in tears. The full event was held at the Carlson Center in Fairbanks, a venue that can hold over 6,500 people.
The ceremony began after the casket for Rich was brought in, preceded by the Seattle Police Pipe and Drum Corps, and placed on stage near Sgt. Johnson’s urn. Several friends and close family members of both men spoke of their bravery and goodness, even Sgt. Johnson’s oldest daughter, Haley.
UAA Police Officer Sean McGee recalled the many years leading up to Johnson’s “inevitable career in Alaska law enforcement” that included work at two Oregon law enforcement agencies, and several years of wrestling in school.
“In second grade, he told his parents he was going to be an Alaska State Trooper,” McGee said. “A goal from which he never wavered.”
Keith Mallard, a close friend of Johnson’s, wept openly at the podium as he said his final goodbye.
“Scott and Gabe represented what was right in this world. He and Gabe stood at the gates of our community,” Mallard said. “The only solace I find in this is that my brother [Scott] was there with my new brother Gabe, and so none of them will ever be alone.”
Sgt. Johnson and Rich were killed in the line of duty on May 1, when they were shot from behind by the son of a man they were attempting to arrest. At his initial charging hearing, 19-year-old Nathanial Kangas was given the opportunity to speak, and simply stated “I’m sorry,” a phrase that seemed to offend some rather than appease.
“His sorry means nothing,” said one fellow K-9 officer at the memorial. “And is downright offensive.”
Kangas’ mother also apologized at the hearing to those law enforcement officers present.
Sgt. Johnson is survived by his wife Brandy and their three daughters, while Rich leaves behind his fiancé Angie Taylor and their two children.
Taylor spoke briefly on stage, reading aloud a poignant letter she had written to her fallen trooper. Her father-in-law stood beside her, head bowed.
“I carry your heart,” Taylor read. “I carry it in my heart.”
Taylor and Rich were set to wed this summer, shortly after Rich was to become a Fish and Wildlife officer in July, according to Dusty Johnson, a friend and fellow law enforcement officer. He recalled several occasions when Rich was able to diffuse dangerous situations with people with his charm and infectious smile, talking to them as a friend.
Both men were honored with a 21 gun salute and taps, and escorted out of the arena by several members of local law enforcement after their flags were presented to each of their families.
A memorial page was set up on Facebook the day after the shooting, and those interested in offering financial and emotional support to the families can do so by purchasing a “Gone but Not Forgotten” t-shirt, from which all of the proceeds will go to the troopers’ families.