NENANA, Alaska — A Nenana jury on Thursday convicted Arvin Kangas on three counts of evidence tampering related to the shooting deaths of two Alaska State Troopers last year.
Sgt. Scott Johnson and trooper Gabe Rich were killed in Tanana on May 1 as they attempted to arrest Kangas for threatening Village Public Safety Officer Mark Haglin.
Kangas’ son, Nathanial, has been charged with the killings and is in jail awaiting trial.
Arvin Kangas was charged with two counts of evidence tampering for removing both troopers’ service weapons from their holsters and working the actions of each to make it appear Nathanial Kangas shot the troopers to defend his father.
Kangas was charged with a third count of evidence tampering for removing marijuana plants from the home before troopers could arrive to investigate the shootings.
The state's case hinged on audio and video recordings made the day of the shooting, the most crucial being an approximately three-minute portion recorded by both troopers' personal recorders about 15 minutes after they were killed. Under the sound of Arvin Kangas' heavy, hoarse breathing could be heard the sounds of both troopers' holsters unsnapping, followed by the sounds of the guns' slides being racked.
Both Kangases could be heard discussing what to do with the marijuana plants growing in the house. Arvin's voice said, "over the bank, every one of them. The seeds too."
Nathanial Kangas could also be heard, howling apologies and telling his father he loved him.
Arvin Kangas' wife, Judy Kangas, who was in the house when the shooting occurred, testified she later looked out of a bedroom door and saw Arvin wearing gloves and holding one of the troopers' pistols.
Family and friends of the slain troopers waited tensely for the verdict, which came after about eight hours of deliberation. Many sobbed and hugged each other as Judge Paul Lyle read each guilty verdict.
Kangas buried his face in his hands and wept after hearing the verdict. As troopers led him out of the courtroom, Kangas confronted his defense attorney, Jim Cannon, and said something unintelligible as he gestured angrily.
After the verdict was read, Lyle informed jurors they would need to establish whether any aggravating circumstances exist that could increase the severity of Kangas’ sentence. They were sent back to the jury room to have lunch and told to return at 1:30 p.m. for further instructions.
Contact Dorothy Chomicz at 459-7582. Follow her on Twitter: @ FDNMcrime.