KODIAK— Kodiak is 500 miles from the home of two Alaska State Troopers who were killed on duty last month but the community came together last weekend to raise money for the families of the officers.
Patrons on Sunday night donated some $5,000 for the families of Sgt. Scott Johnson and Trooper Gabe Rich, gunned down by an assailant in Tanana, at the Elks Club.
The event was organized by chef Joel Chenet, with help from the Elks lodge, St. Innocent’s Academy, and Alaska State Troopers, the Kodiak Daily Mirror reported.
At the “First Salmon of the Year” dinner, which Chenet has put on for 12 years, Chenet’s creative touches gave patrons plenty of pink on each plates.
“We had five courses and everything was salmon,” Chenet said. “It was a good night,” Those five kids they are going to get some money to help them.”
Sgt. Eric Olsen of the Alaska State Troopers, the night’s emcee, noted that the dinner, however, made a strong showing for a community concerned with the welfare of its law enforcement.
“We truly appreciate what Joel and Martine have done for us for the families of Trooper Rich and Sgt. Johnson. All the proceeds from this event are going to them. The community of Kodiak has stepped up and donated items too.”
“As a community we’re able to give back to those spouses and say, ‘Hey we’re going to continue to take care of you even though your law enforcement spouse is gone.’ I think that this is what this is all about. Just because Sgt. Johnson and Trooper Rich are gone doesn’t mean that our support is gone,” Olsen added.
Johnson and Rich, shot on May 1 in the village of Tanana, near Fairbanks, were given a color guard, prayer, with around 78 in attendance.
St. Innocent’s Academy provided musical entertainment — singing everything from church hymns to Georgian chants and sea shanties. The academy helped with the organization, food preparation and table service as well.
Olsen worked with Johnson and considered him a close friend.
“Sgt. Johnson and I were good friends. We used to hang out together on duty and off-duty,” he said.
Olsen described the toll that the shootings have on law enforcement throughout Alaska.
“His death was a severe blow to all of us throughout Alaska and the law enforcement community. There are many other law enforcement officers who are grieving through this time period,” he added.
Law enforcement families face additional emotional and psychological burdens as well, Olsen said.
“I know our spouses of law enforcement members, when they see us go to work they don’t know if we’re coming home. It’s hard on the spouses on a daily basis,” he said.