Sgt. Patrick Johnson and Officer Gabriel Rich, both Alaska state troopers assigned to the Fairbanks Rural Service Unit, lost their lives May 1 after they responded to reports from the tiny town of Tanana, Alaska that a man was brandishing a gun. Tanana is so small in only can be reached by plane – no paved roads connect it to the rest of the state.
Johnson and Rich, who both appeared in the reality show “Alaska State Troopers” on the National Geographic channel, responded to a call from the village’s public safety officer, Mark Haglin, that a man allegedly was brandishing a gun in the street and frightening neighbors. Haglin, according to a report in the Alaska Dispatch, was an unarmed peace officer.
Witnesses said Arvin Kangas was enraged when he did not receive payment of $150 he allegedly sold to another village resident. He went to that home and tried to take the couch back. While trying to do so, he threatened nearby residents, who called Haglin.
Haglin called the Fairbanks Rural Service Unit, which dispatched Johnson and Rich to the scene, where they tried to arrest Kangas at his home. What happened next is not clear, but Johnson and Rich both were shot and killed.
A short official statement from Alaska Department of Public Safety Information Officer Megan Peters said, “Two Alaska State Troopers were killed in Tanana today, May 1, while conducting an investigation. The Troopers responded to Tanana to follow-up on a report from last night that a subject had brandished a firearm in the village. One person has been detained. The details surrounding the deaths are unknown at this time. The Alaska Bureau of Investigation is responding to Tanana to investigate the incident and surrounding circumstances of the Troopers deaths. Next of kin for the deceased is underway. We will provide more details as they become available.”
According to Tanana residents, troopers descended on the village following the shooting, surrounding a house where Kangas was hiding, eventually arresting Kangas for the events leading up to the shootings and on May 2, arresting Kangas’ son, Nathaniel Kangas, for the murders of the two troopers.
Tanana City Council member Pat Moore told the Alaska Dispatch that both men were well liked in the community, adding, “It’s going to be a black eye on the community. I never expected anything like this to happen.”