An intense manhunt has been underway in Mount Rainer National Park, for a man suspected in the shooting death of a Park Ranger.
Over 100 officers came together at the Washington, Mountain Park following the shooting death of Park Ranger Margaret Anderson. Anderson, 24, was attempting to block off a speeding vehicle, during an early Sunday morning chase, according to the Huffington Post.
The alleged gunman, Benjamin Colton Barnes, 24, had sped past a checkpoint, prompting one park ranger to pursue his speeding vehicle. When Anderson blocked his path, he fired gunshots at both rangers. Only Anderson was hit. She was shot before she had ever had a chance to exit her vehicle, according to Pierce County Sheriff’s Spokesman Ed Troyer.
The shooting, which occurred around 10 a.m. Sunday, prompted a manhunt for Barnes, who reportedly has survivalist skills. Authorities believe he may still be in the woods and armed. People have been asked to stay away from the park, while about 125 people already inside were evacuated.
“We do have a very hot and dangerous situation,” Troyer said.
Tactical responders pursued what appeared to be the gunman’s tracks in the snow, while aircrafts with heat-sensing capabilities scanned overhead. Barnes tracks disappeared into creeks and waterways, making it very difficult to follow.
“He’s intentionally trying to get out of the snow,” Troyer said.
Authorities recovered Barnes’ vehicle, where they found weapons and body armor, according to The Associated Press.
A SWAT team removed Anderson’s body from the park Sunday night, along with a procession of law enforcement vehicles. They initially postponed the movement of Anderson’s remains for fear of being in the line of fire.
Barnes, an Iraq War Veteran, was reportedly suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome and also involved in custody battle with the mother of his child, according to a park’s spokesperson.
The woman had a restraining order against Barnes, who was suicidal, according to a court affidavit. She said that Barnes was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after his Iraq deployments in 2007 and 2008 and that he gets easily irritated, angry and depressed. She also reported that he keeps an arsenal of weapons in his home.
According to Sgt. Cindi West, spokesperson for the King County Sheriff, Barnes is a suspect is another shooting, sparked by an argument over a gun. The shooting reportedly took place during a New Year’s Party around 3 a.m., Sunday, in Skyway, a town just south of Seattle. The shooting left four people injured and his family has asked him to turn himself in.
Anderson left behind a husband, who was also a park ranger, and two kids. She was a park ranger for four years, according to The Associated Press.
“It’s just a huge tragedy – for the family, the park and the park service,” said Randy King, the park superintendent.
The park, which offers miles of wooded trails and views of the 14, 410-foot Mount Rainer, will remain closed Monday.