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Tanana mourns the death of two troopers, elder

By Heather Hintze 8:25 PM May 2, 2014

The village is devastated two men who came in to protect the community were killed in the line of duty

TANANA –

On a warm, sunny Friday afternoon in Tanana, a group of men gathered to prepare meat for elder Lois Starr’s funeral.

“There’s a lot of moose head, yeah?” asked Clarence Sam.

For him, the best thing to do right now is to stay busy.

“It’s really a difficult time right now,” he sighed.

Preparing moose head soup helps keep his mind busy. Sam’s trying to cope with the tragedy fresh on everyone’s mind: His nephew, Nathanial Kangas, was arrested for the murder of two state troopers the night before.

“There’s nothing we can do about it. I’ll never see him again. I’ll probably never see him again,” he paused. “But the troopers’ families will never see them again. They protect us. They’re our protectors.”

The small village of Tanana is heartbroken that two people — Sgt. Scott Johnson and trooper Gabe Rich — called in to help their community ended up killed in the line of duty.

“There’s no words to express what I feel as a person, any words I can express to the families of the state troopers except to say our village is devastated,” said Curtis Sommer, the Tanana Tribal Council chair.

Residents said it was a senseless tragedy. They don’t understand how a situation that started with a $150 unpaid bill for a couch escalated so quickly.

“Two troopers are dead, two community members are gone now,” said lifelong resident Miranda Wiehl. “They’re going to be gone for life. Over a couch.”

Tanana was already dealing with the loss of elder Lois Starr. To lose two troopers in their village is beyond words, residents say.

“We’ll continue to deal with it,” Sommer said. “This is just the day after. We’re going to deal with this the rest of our lives, we’re going to think about it.”

Sam knows the most important thing for the community now is to come together to heal.

“We have to keep going, we know that,” he said.

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