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22-year-old Nathanial Kangas of Tanana was found guilty of Murder I charges in the deaths of Sergeant Patrick Johnson and Trooper Gabe Rich on Monday after the jury began deliberations on Friday.
Although, during the trial, the defense offered no evidence, the public defender told the court that Kangas should instead be convicted of Manslaughter not Murder as his client did not intend to kill the officers.
It was on May 1st, that Johnson and Rich responded to the community in connection to an incident regarding his father Arvin Kangas, who threatened the community’s VPSO following a report of a dispute over a couch on April 30th. According to reports in 2014, A. Kangas had threatened to remove a couch from a residence because he claimed that it had not been paid for. A Kangas left the scene before VPSO Mark Haglin arrived and the VPSO would later perform a traffic stop on the A Kangas, where he observed that he had blood-shot eyes. The VPSO would later see A Kangas driving later and went to his home. It was reported then that A Kangas threatened the VPSO with a weapon that he had at his side, prompting the VPSO to contact troopers in Fairbanks.
When troopers Johnson and Rich responded to the community and contacted A Kangas at his home to arrest him for Assault and DWLS, a struggle broke out and Nathanial went inside the residence.
When the two officers and A Kangas tumbled through the door as they struggled, Nathanial opened fire on the officers, firing seven rounds killing them. Nathanial would then take aim at the VPSO, but instead allowed him to escape unharmed.
Because the two troopers were engaged in their officvial duties and were readily identifiable as peace officers, the Murder conviction will carry an mandatory 99-year sentence. Kangas was also found guilty of Assault III on VPSO Haglin.
Over 70 people filled the courtroom as the verdict was handed down by the seven man/five woman jury on Monday.
Kangas will appear in court again on Friday as the judge sets a sentencing date.