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19-year-old arrested for killing two troopers in Tanana; 2nd man charged after standoff

Suzanna CaldwellAlaska Dispatch News,Tegan Hanlon

Note: This story has been updated. See the latest version here.

UPDATE 10:30 AM FRIDAY:

The Alaska State Troopers say they have taken two men into custody in connection with the shooting deaths of two troopers in Tanana on Thursday.

Nathanial Lee Kangas, 19, of Tanana was arrested Thursday for the murders of Sgt. Patrick "Scott" Johnson and Trooper Gabriel "Gabe" Rich, according to a troopers release issued Friday morning. Formal charges are being prepared by the troopers with the help of the Office of Special Prosecutions and Appeals.

Arvin Morse Kangas, 58, of Tanana was charged Thursday with fourth-degree assault and driving with a revoked license on Wednesday, according to a state courts database and troopers. Troopers say the charges stem from an incident with a Tanana village public safety officer Wednesday.

CHECK BACK FOR UPDATES ON THIS DEVELOPING STORY. THE ORIGINAL STORY IS BELOW.

The day after two Alaska State Troopers were killed in Tanana, an uneasy quiet descended on the Yukon River village Friday as condolences poured in to the men's families from around the state and the country.

The troopers were identified as Sgt. Patrick "Scott" Johnson and Trooper Gabriel "Gabe" Rich, both members of the Fairbanks Rural Service Unit.

Johnson and Rich had gone to Tanana on Thursday to follow up on a report that a suspect had brandished a firearm in the village Wednesday night, said Megan Peters, troopers spokeswoman.

Peters said one person was detained. Troopers did not release any other details about what led to the troopers' deaths, saying there might be additional information today.

"We've got a lot of moving parts and pieces," Peters said. "We're doing the best we can."

The Alaska Bureau of Investigation, an arm of the state Department of Public Safety, is responding to Tanana to investigate.

Ruby Cruger, the manager of Tanakon Bed and Breakfast, said the village was calm the morning after the shooting.

"Everybody was up pretty late," she said.

Cruger housed and fed about a dozen SWAT team members at her B&B Thursday night. When she finally got to bed, she said, she tossed and turned for about an hour and a half.

"I had to say my daily prayers for them, for the families," she said.

Cruger on Thursday said she was watching troopers and other officials crowd around a house on Front Street, one of three streets in the village. A shooting happened at the house, she said. Her aunt lives there.

The village school let out minutes before the shooting, according to Tanana Tribal Council president Curtis Sommer.

"People were running around making sure their children were safe," he said Friday morning.

Resident Mary Edwin was picking up her 6-year-old grandson at Maudrey J. Sommer School around 3:15 p.m Thursday, she said.

"I got to the school and they said, 'Come in, we're locking down,' " Edwin said.

Some students had already left before the doors were locked. The rest were let out with adult escorts within about 45 minutes, Edwin said. Staff called the homes of all of the school's 40 or so students, from kindergarten to 12th grade. They were all accounted for, she said.

Alexander Tarnai, 17, said that about 15 minutes after he left school at 3:15 p.m., he received a text message from a friend. It said two troopers had been shot. He went to the street where people had gathered.

"They had a whole bunch of tape, like crime scene tape, like 100 yards from where it happened," he said. He said he's not used to seeing troopers in the village.

There is no trooper post in Tanana. One village public safety officer is stationed there, according to Jody Potts, VPSO director for the Tanana Chiefs Conference.

The Associated Press reported that both Johnson and Rich had appeared on the National Geographic Channel program "Alaska State Troopers" but were not being followed by a film crew at the time of the shooting.

Gov. Sean Parnell issued a statement on the deaths of Johnson and Rich late Thursday.

"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."

On social media, troopers acknowledged the sympathy flooding in from around the nation.

"Thank you for the outpouring of respect and condolences," troopers wrote in a post on the agency's Facebook page Thursday night. That post had several hundred comments by Friday morning, including from numerous other law enforcement agencies.

The tiny Interior Alaska village of Tanana, home to 238 people, is at the junction of the Yukon and Tanana rivers 130 air miles west of Fairbanks. It is accessible only by air and river transportation.

Charlie Wright, a 20-year resident of Tanana, lives a few houses from where the shooting occurred, three streets from the banks of the still-frozen Yukon River. Normally people are cleaning up their yards and getting ready to head out to fish camp along the river, he said.

"It's a really peaceful, really quiet place," he said.

The last trooper death was in March 2013, when Trooper Tage Toll died in a helicopter crash during a search-and-rescue. The last trooper to die of gunfire was Hans-Peter Roelle, killed in pursuit of a suspect in 2001. To date, 16 troopers have been killed in the line of duty.

In Tanana, residents were preparing Friday for an unrelated funeral at the community hall.

"We will be burying an elder today," Sommer said. "On top of all that, on top of what is going on."

He extended his condolences to the families of the two troopers and called the shooting "very devastating" for his village.

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Suzanna Caldwell writes for the Alaska Dispatch and Tegan Hanlon writes for the Anchorage Daily News. Daily News editor Julia O'Malley and reporters Zaz Hollander and Devin Kelly contributed to this story.

 


By SUZANNA CALDWELL and TEGAN HANLON
Alaska Dispatch / Anchorage Daily News
Contact Suzanna Caldwell at or on