When Alaska State Troopers Gabriel "Gabe" Rich and Sgt. Patrick "Scott" Johnson died in the line of duty on May 1, they joined the ranks of troopers who have given their lives in service of the state of Alaska. In all, 16 Alaska State Troopers and wildlife enforcement officers have died in the line of duty, some in accidents, some during rescues, and some at the hands of criminals.
Officers Leroy Garvin Bohuslov and Gary George Wohlfeil
March 5, 1964
Bohuslov, 38, and Wohlfeil, 21, both McGrath-based officers with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, were killed when their plane crashed as they were conducting a caribou study near Farewell. Wohlfeil had been with the department just seven months. The officers lost radio contact shortly after noon on March 5; their Champion 150 aircraft was located after a four-day, multi-agency search coordinated by the Civil Air Patrol. An investigation found that the plane lost a wing during flight, causing it to nose-dive.
Trooper Dennis Finbar Cronin
Feb. 18, 1974
Born in Ireland, Cronin, 31, was the first Alaska State Trooper to die in the line of duty. An undercover operative, he volunteered to shepherd a drug informant, Bernard Kaleialoha Lono, who was in Anchorage for depositions. While in Anchorage, Lono obtained a gun and unexpectedly shot Cronin, then his girlfriend, then himself. All three died.
Troopers Larry Robert Carr and Frank Stuart Rodman
Dec. 11, 1974
Carr, 23, and Rodman, 25, were killed in the crash of Kodiak Western Airlines Flight 91 along with the pilot and two other passengers. The troopers were transporting the body of drowning victim Alex Inga Sr. from Old Harbor to Kodiak. The crash's cause was never determined.
Trooper Roland Edgar Skip Chevalier Jr.
April 3, 1982
Chevalier, 33, was shot and killed when he attempted to intervene in a domestic dispute between his brother-in-law, Robert McCann Jr., and father-in-law, Robert McCann Sr., at the family's Cleary Summit Ski Lodge. The younger McCann was charged with Chevalier's murder but acquitted after successfully arguing that the death was accidental. The shot, he said, was fired at his father in self-defense. The elder McCann pleaded guilty to felony assault for shooting at and wounding his son.
Sgt. John David Stimson
Jan. 14, 1983
Cordova-based Fish and Wildlife officer Stimson, 41, volunteered for a rescue mission in response to a distress call from Kennedy Air Service pilot Gayle Ranney. Stimson and civilian pilot Gary Wiltrout boarded a Jet Ranger helicopter and took off from Cordova; shortly thereafter, they sent a mayday message reporting engine failure. They went down approximately 2 miles from Ranney's crash site. Both survived the crash, but weather delayed rescue attempts, and Stimson succumbed to hypothermia.
Trooper Troy Lynn Duncan
May 19, 1984
Wanted for questioning about the death of a neighbor, unemployed transient Michael Silka fled to the small Interior community of Manley Hot Springs, where he killed six townspeople, including a 2-year-old boy and his pregnant mother. When trooper helicopters converged on the suspected killer, Silka fired at them, killing trooper Duncan, 34. Silka was killed when troopers returned fire.
Sgt. Robert Lee Bittick
Oct. 11, 1994
Bittick, 51, was piloting a Grumman Goose from Anchorage to Juneau along the "backdoor route," above the Alaska Highway, when the plane crashed into a mountainside. Bittick and his passenger, Public Safety Deputy Commissioner Claude Swackhammer, were both killed. An investigation blamed weather and visibility for the crash.
Trooper Bruce Alan Heck
Jan. 10, 1997
Mat-Su-based Trooper Heck, 42, died after engaging in hand-to-hand combat with John Kevin Phillips, a parolee who had robbed an Anchorage store and stolen a cab. Heck chased Phillips first by car and then on foot into a wooded area, where Phillips attacked the trooper as he attempted to make an arrest. Heck died during or after the fight, due either to being smothered or from a cardiac arrhythmia.
Sgt. David C. Churchill
Sept. 16, 1998
Alaska Wildlife Trooper Churchill, 51, suffered a fatal heart attack while hiking up a mountain to check on a hunting party on the Alaska Peninsula. National Park Service rangers who were working with Churchill attempted CPR; he was then medevaced to a nearby hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Trooper James A. Moen
June 25, 2001
Wildlife Trooper Moen, 49, was alone at the controls of a Super Cub when he crashed near Lake Iliamna. The aircraft had recently been fitted with twin fuel tanks, and an investigation found troopers had no provisions for training pilots on the system.
Trooper Hans-Peter Roelle
Nov. 24, 2001
Roelle, 40, was fatally shot by Wasilla resident Ryan Andrews, who also killed his own two small children and then himself after a dispute with his girlfriend. Roelle was killed while approaching Andrews' home in an attempt to rescue the two children.
Trooper Tage Brandel Toll
March 30, 2013
Toll, 40, was flying as a spotter aboard troopers' Helo 1 on a search and rescue mission near Larson Lake in the Talkeetna area. After locating and picking up stranded snowmachiner Carl Ober, Toll and pilot Mel Nading turned back toward Talkeetna. Approximately seven minutes later, the chopper crashed, killing all three men.
Sgt. Patrick Scott Johnson and Trooper Gabriel Rich
May 1, 2014
Johnson, 44, and Rich, 26, were shot and killed while responding to a village public safety officer's request for backup to arrest a Tanana resident who pointed a firearm at the VPSO after causing a disturbance in the village.
Alaska Dispatch Publishing