Two Alaska State Troopers killed in Tanana shooting

Craig MedredAlaska Dispatch,Anchorage Daiily News

Two Alaska State Troopers were killed in the Yukon River village of Tanana Thursday while conducting an investigation, trooper spokesperson Megan Peters said.

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

The troopers went to Tanana Thursday to follow up on a report Wednesday night that a suspect had brandished a firearm in the village, according to a prepared statement. One person has been detained. Troopers did not release any other details about what led to the troopers’ deaths.

"We probably won't have anything of more substance until (Friday)," Peters said. "We've got a lot of moving parts and pieces. 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.

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

“All we know is two troopers were shot, they are both dead,” she said.

Resident Mary Edwin was picking up her 6-year-old grandson at the village’s Maudrey J. Sommer School around 3:15 p.m.

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

The school remained on lockdown for at least 30 minutes. Some students had already left, and the rest were let out with adult escorts, Edwin said. Staff called the homes of the the school’s 40 or so students, from kindergarten to 12th grade. All were accounted for, she said.

Alexander Tarnai, 17, said he had just left school when he received a text message from a friend about 3:30 p.m. that 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.

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

Charlie Wright, a 20-year resident of Tanana, lives just a few houses down 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. "I couldn't believe what could have caused an uproar like this."

The tiny Interior Alaska village of Tanana, home to 238 people, is located at the junction of the Yukon and Tanana rivers 130 air miles west of Fairbanks. It is accessible only by air and river transportation. Tanana is also the Alaska village where the Discovery Channel films the reality TV show "Yukon Men.''

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 Trooper Hans-Peter Roelle, who was killed in pursuit of a suspect in 2001. To date, 16 troopers have been killed in the line of duty.

Suzanna Caldwell, Julia O’Malley and Tegan Hanlon contributed to this report.