FAIRBANKS — Nathanial Kangas fired seven deadly shots from close range, into the backs of two Alaska State Troopers in Tanana on Thursday, according to charging documents released Saturday.
The state charged Kangas, 20, with two counts of first-degree murder and one count of third-degree assault for the deaths of
Sgt. Patrick “Scott” Johnson and trooper Gabriel “Gabe” Rich. He faces more than 200 years in prison if convicted.
Kangas was arraigned Saturday afternoon in a Fairbanks court where every seat was full and the walls were lined with law enforcement officers of several agencies.
Charging documents allege that Kangas shot Johnson and Rich while the two troopers struggled to restrain his father, Arvin Kangas, 58, who was attempting to flee.
The troopers, members of a four-person rural law enforcement team based in Fairbanks, flew into Tanana on Thursday to arrest Kangas’ father. They contacted Arvin Kangas outside his residence as his son entered the house and moved out of view of the troopers.
Arvin Kangas then attempted to flee, and Nathanial Kangas emerged from the house with what documents refer to as an “assault rifle.” He reportedly fired seven shots, killing Johnson and Rich.
Village Public Safety Officer Mark Haglin was on-scene throughout the encounter. After firing on the troopers, Kangas turned the gun on Haglin, the account states. Haglin then believed that Kangas would shoot him as well, according to the account, but several moments later the shooter lowered the weapon and Haglin was able to escape and call for help.
Haglin was later able to detain Kangas with the help of community members. Charging documents end by stating that once Haglin had him in custody, Kangas “spontaneously stated that he was sorry for doing ‘it’ and that he shot troopers because the troopers were wrestling with Arvin.”
What started it
Johnson and Rich’s trip to Tanana was not supposed to include Kangas. The two had flown to the village to assist Haglin in arresting Arvin for driving with a revoked license and for misdemeanor assault.
Charges against Arvin allege he had become enraged about the sale of a $150 couch between two women in the 238 person village Wednesday, one of whom called Haglin that evening to report she was worried Arvin was going to break into her home and steal the sofa.
Haglin pulled Arvin over the night before knowing Kangas’ father did not have a valid driver’s license. When he pulled Arvin over, Haglin noticed the man had bloodshot eyes and was slurring his speech. Arvin allegedly challenged the VPSO to fight. Haglin told Arvin to go home and stop driving for the night, but saw him driving in town again that same night.
Haglin visited Arvin at his home that night. Arvin was sitting on his porch, and, according to charging documents, threatened to use the rifle at his side on the VPSO if he did not leave.
Arvin Kangas was arraigned Friday in Fairbanks on a fourth-degree assault charge for the incident that apparently sparked the visit to Tanana by Johnson and Rich.
Unlike his father, who was shown only via video feed from Fairbanks Correctional Center, Nathanial Kangas was physically escorted into the courtroom.
No members of either slain trooper’s family spoke at the arraignment. Kangas’ mother, Judy, and younger brother, Albert, each gave a brief, tearful apology.
“I want to tell everybody, the families, from the bottom of my heart that I am sorry,” Judy Kangas said as she choked back tears.
Other than the prosecuting attorney, the only other person to speak on the record was the director of the troopers, Col. James Cockrell, who recommended the court adopt the prosecution’s bail recommendation.
“Personally, I feel it should be a no-bail situation, but I understand some constitutional issues there,” Cockrell told the court. “These are serious crimes, killing two Alaska State Troopers, two of my Alaska State Troopers ... I would support the recommendations of the district attorney and hope that you put the maximum amount of bail possible.”
The court set bail for Kangas at $4 million. If he were to make bail, his conditions of release would include no contact with any law enforcement officer unless he required assistance, no contact with either of the troopers’ families, no return to the village of Tanana and no possession of any deadly weapon of any kind as defined by the law.
When his bail and conditions had been read to him, the presiding judge asked him if he had anything to say regarding the bail.
After a long pause, Kangas replied only, “I’m sorry.”
Contact staff writer Weston Morrow at 459-7520. Follow him on Twitter: @FDNMschools.