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Teenage son of Alaska Native leader stabbed to death in Utqiaġvik

Crawford Sue Patkotak with his parents, Crawford and Laura Patkotak, in an undated photo. Crawford Sue Patkotak was stabbed and killed by another family member Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2017, in the North Slope hub city of Utqiaġvik, his father said. (Courtesy of Patkotak family)

An Alaska Native leader said his 14-year-old son was stabbed and killed by another family member Wednesday in the North Slope hub city of Utqiaġvik, formerly known as Barrow.

Crawford Patkotak said the youngest of his four sons, Crawford Sue Patkotak, was getting ready for school when he was stabbed by a nephew who'd been staying with the Patkotaks.

"Something happened — something happened with him, he must have snapped," Patkotak said. He added: "We lost our son."

Crawford Sue Patkotak (Courtesy Crawford Patkotak)

North Slope Borough police, in a prepared statement, said they responded to the Utqiaġvik hospital at 7:15 a.m. Wednesday "for the reported death of a juvenile."

"The circumstances of the death are currently under investigation. There is no public safety concern to the residents of Utqiagvik to report," the statement said.

Deputy Chief Jeff Brown declined to answer questions about the death, or the investigation.

The elder Patkotak is a whaling captain and chairs the board of Arctic Slope Regional Corp., the Alaska Native corporation with vast land holdings on the North Slope. ASRC is one of the state's largest private employers, with subsidiaries in oil and gas, construction and financial services.

In an emotional phone interview Thursday morning, Patkotak said he and his wife, Laura, were in Anchorage on Wednesday for the Alaska Federation of Natives annual convention when they learned what happened and flew back to Utqiaġvik.

Crawford Patkotak applauds after a speech at last year’s Alaska Federation of Natives convention in Fairbanks. (Loren Holmes / Alaska Dispatch News)

Patkotak's family, he said, had taken in the nephew, who was suffering from mental illness and had been suicidal.

The nephew had no other place to stay — the state's system failed to help him "and he ended up at our house," Patkotak said.

"It put us in a very awkward situation, you know, because we loved the young man. We didn't want him out on the street," Patkotak said. "And so we took him in temporarily, and wanted to do our part to help him."

Crawford Sue Patkotak was on his way out of the house for school when the nephew stabbed him in the neck, the elder Patkotak said. Crawford Sue quickly lost consciousness; a brother took him to the hospital, where doctors gave transfusions but couldn't keep up with the blood loss, Patkotak said.

Crawford Sue Patkotak was in student government at Hopson Middle School, went to three youth church groups — at New Beginnings Church, Assembly of God Church and Cornerstone Community Church — and he wrestled, played football and loved to hunt, said Crawford Patkotak.

Laura Patkotak and her husband, Crawford Patkotak, welcome the crowds at Nalukataq, a spring whaling celebration in Utqiagvik last year. (Shady Grove Oliver / Arctic Sounder)

"He was just a loving kid that just loved on people," Patkotak said. "A growing, loving young man. He was always talking about his future and talking about what he's going to do."

Other family members said Crawford Sue was helping raise his young nieces and nephews, playing "the big brother role" the same way his older siblings helped raise him, said Arnold Patkotak, Crawford Sue's oldest brother.

He taught them to take out the trash, walking with them to the dumpster and helping shove the bags in, said Laura Patkotak, Crawford Sue's mother. He would cook for them and feed them, teach them to pack sleds for hunting and show them how to dress.

"If they went to the bathroom, he would go in there and make sure that they wiped and washed their hands," Laura Patkotak said. "He was just training them to be little people."

The Patkotaks hadn't seen Crawford Sue's body yet because his death was still under investigation, said Crawford Patkotak. He and Laura Patkotak said they're relying on their family and their faith to cope.

"We're leaning on our kids right now for their strength and their support," Laura Patkotak said. She added she wanted to leave people with hope, "that there is life after today for people and families that have gone through tragedy."

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