7/29/2014

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Park ranger fatally shot near Mt. Rainier, gunman still on loose

Park ranger fatally shot near Mt. Rainier, gunman still on loose
Ranger Margaret Anderson. (Photo courtesy: Mt. Rainier National Park)
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MOUNT RAINIER NATIONAL PARK, Wash. - Investigators have a "strong person of interest" in the fatal shooting of a Mount Rainier National Park ranger Sunday. Detectives are looking for 24-year-old Benjamin Colton Barnes, according to a flyer being passed around by law enforcement at the scene.

Investigators have also recovered a car filled with weapons and body armor, along with survivalist gear, said Det. Ed Troyer with the Pierce County Sheriff's Department. But Troyer would not say for sure yet that car belongs to Barnes.

Meanwhile, an intense manhunt continues for the armed gunman who fatally shot 34-year-old park ranger Margaret Anderson following a traffic stop, and the 368-square-mile park in Washington state remained closed.

Authorities believed the gunman was still in the woods with an assault rifle. They asked people to stay away from the park, and for those already inside to leave. Troyer said there were about 100 people hunkered down in lodges and cabins on the mountain. They were asked to stay put because they could be in the line of fire.

Troyer also said it appeared there were still visitors hiking on the mountain who could not be reached and were not aware of what was going on.

"We do have a very hot and dangerous situation," he said.

Meanwhile, Anderson's family said she died doing what she loved.

Benjamin C. Barnes
"She loved people and she loved being outside," Paul Kritsch, Anderson's father, told KOMO News Radio.

At around 10:20 a.m. Sunday, another park service employee had unsuccessfully tried to pull the man over during a routine traffic stop. Anderson set up a road block with her vehicle in the middle of the road, said park spokeswoman Lee Taylor. The man pulled up to Anderson about 11 a.m., jumped out, fired and ran off, she said.

Troyer said when authorities arrived they were also shot at, but no one else was hit. About 150 officers, including officials from the Washington State Patrol, U.S. Forest Service and FBI, were on the mountain. They had not made contact with the gunman and did not know where he was, Troyer said.

A military-style, armored vehicle was seen as police deployed resources into the evening.

Authorities said earlier that Anderson's body had been removed from the park, but Troyer said police have been unable to get to her.

Park superintendent Randy King said Anderson has served as a park ranger for about four years. King said Anderson's husband also was working as a ranger elsewhere in the park at the time of the shooting.

Kritsch said Anderson met her husband while they were working at Bryce Canyon in southern Utah and searched out a place where they could serve together, and that's what brought them to Mt. Rainier.

They eventually got married and started a family, and had two young daughters, now aged 4 and 2.

"She loved her two little girls, and they're going to miss her," Kritsch said. "(Her husband) is going to do a good job of remembering Margaret but the little girls will have very few memories of her mom any more after a while."

Adam Norton, a neighbor of Anderson's in the small town of Eatonville, Wash., said the ranger's family moved in about a year ago. He said they were not around much, but when they were Norton would see Anderson outside with her girls.

"They just seemed like the perfect family," he said.

The town of about 3,000 residents, which is a logging community overlooking Mount Rainier, is very close knit, he said.

"It's really sad right now," Norton said. "We take care of each other."

It has been legal for people to take loaded firearms into Mount Rainier since 2010, when a controversial federal law went into effect that made possession of firearms in national parks subject to state gun laws.

The shooting occurred on an unseasonably sunny and mild day. The park, which offers miles of wooded trails and spectacular vistas from which to see 14,410-foot Mount Rainier, draws between 1.5 million and 2 million visitors each year.

The Longmire station served as headquarters when the national park was established in 1899. Park headquarters have moved but the site still contains a museum, a hotel, restaurant and gift shop, which are open year-round.

The Washington State Patrol also was helping with the investigation.

"Our faith is sustaining us, but it's a tragedy," Kritsch said. "And we hope and pray they capture the guy who did this and bring them to justice."
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Police: Before vanishing, missing mom bought trail mix, sleeping pills Police: Before vanishing, missing mom bought trail mix, sleeping pills