Crime & Courts

Man who killed 2 Alaska State Troopers in Tanana sentenced to 203 years

FAIRBANKS — Nathanial Kangas will spend the rest of his life in prison for murdering two Alaska State Troopers in Tanana.

Fairbanks Superior Court Judge Paul Lyle sentenced Kangas to 203 years in prison Wednesday for killing trooper Sgt. Scott Johnson and trooper Gabe Rich in Tanana on May 1, 2014.

The life sentence had been assured since May 18, when a Fairbanks jury convicted Kangas of first-degree murder for ambushing the troopers with a semiautomatic weapon, pulling the trigger seven times.

State law requires a mandatory 99-year sentence for killing a uniformed police officer while he or she is performing official duties. Lyle said even if consecutive sentences totaling 198 years were not required by law, they would be appropriate in this case.

"There is no more serious crime than the crimes that you have committed," Lyle said to Kangas in a courtroom filled with about 60 people, including family members of the troopers and some of Kangas' relatives.

Kangas, who turns 23 this month, spoke briefly at the sentencing and said he was sorry in a low voice, barely audible in the courtroom even with a microphone. He was also sentenced to five years for pointing a gun at a village public safety officer and fined $5,000 for tampering with evidence.

Kangas murdered the two troopers as they attempted to arrest his father, Arvin Kangas, on a misdemeanor assault charge. Arvin Kangas was convicted of evidence tampering in a separate case and will be eligible for release in a few years.

Lyle said the two state troopers did their jobs with respect, and Nathanial Kangas acted in a cowardly and callous manner.

He also banned any direct or indirect contact between Arvin and Nathanial Kangas, citing a state law that allows contact to be prohibited when the witness to a crime is involved. Arvin Kangas was a witness to the murders.

Given the nature of the relationship between Nathanial Kangas and his father, Lyle said the no-contact order was necessary to ensure the safety of correctional officers who are going to have to deal with the young man for the rest of his life. If he can show the court that he undergoes treatment to control his impulses, it is possible the no-contact ban will be reconsidered.

Dermot Cole

Former ADN columnist Dermot Cole is a longtime reporter, editor and author.