The two Alaska State Troopers fatally shot in Tanana Thursday, according to troopers and local residents, have been identified.
AST spokesperson Megan Peters released a brief statement Thursday confirming the deaths of Sgt. Patrick “Scott” Johnson and Trooper Gabriel “Gabe” Rich, both members of the Fairbanks Rural Service Unit.
“The Troopers responded to Tanana to follow-up on a report from last night that a subject had brandished a firearm in the village,” Peters wrote in a brief statement Thursday. “One person has been detained.”
Ruby Cruger, an eight-year Tanana resident and manager of the Tanakon Bed and Breakfast, says 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.
Few details are available locally, but Cruger says a male suspect may have been involved.
“A young kid, a young adult shot the troopers -- that's all I know,” Cruger said. “I don't know what's going on up there; right now, they have like a SWAT team in there that came in maybe 45 minutes ago. But nobody can enter up there, because it's a crime scene right now and we won't know anything until late tonight or tomorrow.”
Peters confirmed AST's response, but declined further comment on the case Thursday night with Alaska Bureau of Investigation crews still en route.
"We do have troopers in Tanana now but they're not the investigators from ABI, and we can't confirm anything until they are there," Peters said.
According to the Officer Down Memorial Page's online list of fallen Alaska State Troopers, 14 troopers have died in the line of duty prior to Thursday's shootings. The most recent, Trooper Tage Toll, was added to the Alaska Police Memorial last year after dying with pilot Mel Nading and snowmachiner Carl Ober in the March 30, 2013 crash of Helo-1 near Talkeetna.
ODMP lists four AST members, all holding the rank of trooper, as being slain by gunfire in the agency's history:
Dennis Finbar Cronin was working with a Drug Enforcement Task Force when he was shot in his cruiser by an informant who then committed suicide on Feb. 18, 1974. No motive was ever discovered for the crime.
Roland Edgar "Skip" Chevalier, Jr. was shot in the heart by the son of a drunken man at the Cleary Summit Ski Area on April 3, 1982. The son said he was trying to protect himself from his father and was acquitted of murder charges, but the father was convicted of attempted murder.
Troy Lynn Duncan was part of a Special Emergency Reaction Team unit being deployed by helicopter in pursuit of a serial killer on May 19, 1984. As Duncan's chopper hovered 15 feet off the ground, the suspect opened fire on it and killed him; a fellow officer fatally wounded the suspect with return fire from an AR-15.
Hans-Peter Roelle was killed on Nov. 24, 2001 in pursuit of a suicidal man who had pushed his girlfriend out of a moving car and led police on a 100-mph chase. When Roelle went to the man's home, he shot Roelle in the head as he hid behind a fence before turning the gun on his own two children and killing himself.
Gov. Sean Parnell issued a statement on Johnson and Rich's deaths late Thursday night, saying he stands with their families and colleagues.
“Sandy and I were deeply saddened to learn of the senseless, brutal crime that took the lives of two of Alaska’s finest,” Parnell said. “These fallen heroes answered the call to serve and protect, and made the ultimate sacrifice, while keeping our communities safe. May God and the loving support of grateful Alaskans bring comfort to the families of these courageous men, the public safety community, and all those impacted by this horrific act.”
Channel 2 Facebook users were united in shock and regret at Thursday's news, with many expressing their condolences to Johnson and Rich's families while hoping for justice to be served.
"Horrible news, absolutely horrible," wrote Patrick McCarthy. "In my (family's) thoughts and prayers."
"Kind of news we don't like to hear," wrote Delia Iyapana. "Prayer to families and all State Troopers in Alaska. Thank you for protecting us."
"I have no words to express the sadness this brings into my heart," wrote Anchorage Police Department gang intelligence officer Scott Lofthouse. "God bless the families of these men who gave their lives while selflessly serving the citizens of Alaska."
Editor's note: An initial misspelling of Ruby Cruger's last name has been corrected.
Channel 2's Samantha Angaiak contributed information to this story.
This is a developing story. Please check KTUU.com and the Channel 2 newscasts for updates.