To honor the recently fallen troopers Sergeant Scott Johnson and Trooper Gabe Rich, the Alaska State Trooper production crew is sharing some fond memories of the two brave men who lost there lives last week in the line of duty. Memorial funds have been set up at Wells Fargo Bank for Sergeant Scott Johnson and Trooper Gabe Rich. All proceeds from these accounts will go directly to the families of the fallen. For more information, visit the dps.alaska.gov announcement.
Cameraman Ryan Cahill shares some of his memories in the field with Trooper Rich and Sgt. Johnson:
From the moment I stepped off the plane in Fairbanks, as the -20F degree air hit my lungs, I instantly felt a connection with the last frontier. I walked into the AST Fairbanks post the next day and was greeted with open arms by all of the Troopers. Throughout my two and half years filming the show, some of my best memories in Alaska involved Trooper Rich. I’ll never forget the day he started F-Tap (Field Training) in Fairbanks! Immediately, I knew this guy was going to be our next featured Trooper on the show. As soon as he was allowed to ride with a camera crew, my producer, Sky Finn, and I were in his cruiser as much as he could stand us. He always pulled the Ricky Bobby joke while being interviewed and put up his hands in frame and uttered the phrase “I don’t know what to do with my hands.” It was difficult to keep a straight face while in his presence.
We covered some wild stories together, taking us all over the interior of Alaska. While riding with Trooper Rich, you always felt safe and knew he had our “6” (back) and vice versa. That’s the thing, when you spend so much time with LEO’s (Law Enforcement Officers) you are inducted into the brother/sisterhood that is a huge community of LEO’s. Trooper Rich was like the brother I never had. We always had things to talk about on our downtime whether it was cars, man toys (ATV’s, Snow-machines etc.), or just life. I will always cherish the time I spent with this wonderful, compassionate human being.
I also had the memorable opportunity to work with Sgt. Scott Johnson on a few occasions. He was the prototype for all Sergeants within AST. He was always accommodating to the camera crew; going out of his way to get us great footage, all while keeping us out of harm’s way. One adventure involved a snow-machine (aka snow mobile) that Troopers staged to bait some potential thieves. In -30F degree temperatures, Sergeant Johnson donned a -40F degree white camouflage snowsuit and took my producer with him as they sat and watched the snow machine. I, on the other hand, was the lucky one who sat in the warm patrol car nearby. Unfortunately for them and for the story, no one took the bait. But what I remember most was Sgt. Johnson’s enthusiasm during the post interview after he had just spent 3 hours in -30F degree weather. That’s just the kind of guy he was: protective, humble and brave.
I salute both of these brave men for putting on the badge every day to protect the citizens of the great state of Alaska! R.I.P. Brothers. Your fellow “honorary” Trooper and favorite Cameraman, Ryan
Producer Charissa Sander remembers Gabe:
Gabe’s job was to protect and serve… and make you laugh til’ you cry.
I’ll never forget my first ride-a-long with Gabe. I made the mistake of casually mentioning I get car sick in the backseat. For the first 20 minutes, I thought he was the worst driver I had ever ridden with. He would accelerate excessively, only to stomp on the breaks. He pulled off into a parking lot where he proceeded to spin doughnuts. By this time, I realized what he was up to. I was sweating and salivating and doing anything to not throw up—begging to be let out, which he did after a long laugh. Even if you didn’t get a story with him, you got a free comedy show.
Gabe was adored by everyone. In his car, we pulled over to talk to the people of Fairbanks more than with anyone I’ve ever ridden with. He knew everyone. I once had a camera guy who dubbed him “Mr. Popular Pants.” Gabe was the one who added in the “pants.” He had a way with his words and way with the people he met—even the ones who were less cooperative. He simply said, “You just have to be their friend. You have to listen to them.” He was everyone’s best friend.
Having worked at many other posts, I can tell you that none of them were like Gabe’s. “D” Detachment is special for their bond. My heart breaks when I think of how they are reeling from the loss of their brothers. I feel incredibly fortunate to have worked alongside them and even more fortunate to have known Gabe.
Producer Kelly Lambson reflects on her moments with Sgt. Scott:
My first time filming with Sgt. Scott Johnson turned into a 23-hour adventure for me, but it was just another day at the office for him. He loved his job and did it better than anyone. From the moment I saw him in action, I remember thinking to myself, “Here’s a trooper with amazing skills,” and his most valuable was the way he communicated with people. No matter what the scenario, he instantly put everyone at ease, and could get a drug dealer to confess without raising his voice. I always said if you had to get pulled over by a trooper, you wouldn’t feel bad about getting a ticket from him.
My 23-hour adventure with Scott started with surveillance of an undercover drug-buy in a grocery store parking lot. The photographer and I hid in the back seat of his truck behind a curtain and waited for the buy to go down. Scott picked a strategic parking spot where he could see everything happening. The suspected drug dealer was supposed to park about 50 feet away, but instead pulled into the spot right in front of us. As we hid quietly in the back, Scott immediately backed out so as not to tip him off. It was so exciting to be that close to the action and blend in like we were just another car. Little did I know we were just getting started.
From there, we drove across town to bust a man for growing pot in his house. Next we drove 40 miles out of town where Scott changed into a white camouflage “ghillie” suit and I was like, “This is the coolest dude I’ve ever met!” Wearing that suit, he hiked though the woods and snow to watch yet another drug deal happen. At this point, it was around 2 a.m. and he still had one more drug bust to go. This was a major interdiction, so we weren’t allowed to follow him; but we sat in the truck and listened to the whole thing over his wireless mic. Scott and his team knocked on the door and headed in. Once they got inside, a dog bit one of his guys in the leg and he came out to the truck bleeding. The rest of his team searched the house looking for the “grow room,” but it was nowhere to be found. Scott gave the basement another look and noticed one of the walls was fake and had hinges. We listened as he pulled open the fake wall and revealed a crawl space that led to the “grow room.” He crawled in and discovered a man hiding in the corner who troopers arrested. It was scary and intense – and even after 23 hours, I was too excited to sleep when we got home. All of that was thanks to Scott, who seemed calm and completely in his element the entire time.
He was one of the good guys making a difference. He was a great Trooper and that was because he was a great human. I will never forget my time working with him. He was a good man.
The Alaska State Troopers put their lives on the line every day. The fallen are never forgotten.