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Updated: Suspect In Mount Rainier National Park Shooting Found Dead

National Park Rangers protect the public as well as the resource, and at times that requires the ultimate sacrifice. This moving memorial to Great Smoky Mountains National Park Ranger Joseph D. Kolodski sits beside Blue Ridge Parkway headquarters in Asheville, NC. Stationed in Great Smoky, he died in 1998 "protecting visitors from harm" while responding to an incident on the southern end of the Parkway. Randy Johnson photo.

Editor's note: This updates that the suspect confirmed dead in the park and provides additional details, including his name.


An Iraqi war veteran wanted in connection with the slaying of a ranger in Mount Rainier National Park was found dead Monday afternoon in a drainage near one of the park's hallmark waterfalls just south of Paradise.

How Benjamin Colton Barnes died, however, was not immediately known. While ground teams had reached the location of his body, they had not reported whether he had died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, from hyopthermia, or perhaps from a fall, park spokeswoman Lee Snook said.

Mr. Barnes had been the subject of a manhunt that grew to involve more than 200 law enforcement personnel from state, local and federal jurisdictions after Ranger Margaret Anderson was shot New Year's Day. At times he waded through chest-deep snow to evade the search teams, Ms. Snook said.

“The last time his tracks were found the snow was about chest deep, so it would have been cold, wet and difficult," she said. The tracks indicated that he was "post-holing" and had no snowshoes, the spokeswoman said.

Earlier Monday, park officials said aerial teams had spotted Mr. Barnes' prone body in a steep drainage near Narda Falls, a 176-foot cascade of the Paradise River that plunges over a basalt wall in two pitches, one falling about 159 feet, the other about 17.

Ranger Anderson, a 34-year-old law enforcement ranger, was shot and killed when she tried to intercept Mr. Barnes' car as it fled a routine checkpoint where park visitors were checked to see if they had chains for their tires. At a point on the road above Longmire and about a mile from Paradise the ranger used her cruiser to block the road so she could stop the man shortly after 10 a.m. Sunday.

"The assailant jumped from his car and opened fire with a shotgun, fatally wounding Ranger Anderson. The assailant then fled on foot into the woods," another park spokeswoman, Lee Taylor, said Sunday evening.

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Ranger Margaret Anderson. NPS photo.

When other rangers responded to the scene, they were prevented from reaching Ranger Anderson by the man, who kept them pinned down with gunfire from the woods, according to other park officials.

"It was about 90 minutes before they could reach her," Ms. Snook said Sunday afternoon.

The ranger, who became just the ninth ranger in Park Service history to be murdered in the line of duty, left behind a husband who also was a ranger in the park, and two young children, aged 2 and 4, according to park officials.

The more than 200 law enforcement personnel from the park, the FBI, and surrounding jurisdictions continued their manhunt into Sunday night, aided by a fixed-wing aircraft with forward-looking infrared to scan the ground, she said.

At Paradise, 125 park visitors who had come to Paradise to enjoy the day were moved for their safety into the Jackson Memorial Visitor Center along with 17 park staff.

"The visitor center has a restaurant to provide food, restrooms, and water, and law enforcement officers are on hand to provide protection," said Ms. Taylor.

Later Sunday evening they were escorted by authorities out of the park.

News reports out of Seattle said the man being sought was thought to have been involved in a shooting at a house there earlier Sunday, and that when authorities searched a car abandoned near Ranger Anderson they found it held survival gear and body armor.

In Washington, D.C., Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said Sunday that he was "deeply saddened by the tragic, horrific and cowardly murder today at Mount Rainier National Park."

"The Department of the Interior and the National Park Service will do everything possible to bring the perpetrator of this crime to justice and to ensure the safety of park visitors and other park rangers," the secretary said in a prepared statement. "This tragedy serves as a reminder of the risks undertaken by the men and women of the National Park Service and law enforcement officers across the Department every day, and we thank them for their service. My thoughts and prayers are with Margaret's family in this difficult time."

Park Service Director Jon Jarvis called the ranger's murder "a heartbreaking, senseless tragedy."

"Margaret was just 34 years old. She and her husband Eric, who is also a Park Ranger at Mount Rainier, have two young children," he added. "Margaret was killed while doing her job: protecting the visiting public on one of the park’s busiest days of the year."

Over the years more than 200 Park Service staff have died or been killed on the job. Kris Eggle, a ranger at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, was shot and killed in the line of duty in 2002 while pursuing suspected drug runners who were armed with AK-47s.

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Guns do not kill. Criminals do. If we outlaw guns, criminals will be the only ones armed. 
If a criminal knows that we will face weapon, he/she will look for the little sheep...

Having visited national parks on our visits to the USA I have great respect for the fine work the rangers do and this is very sad. We had a serious shooting massacre in a tourist park a number of years ago. This lead to a firearms ban throughout the nation. Something the USA may like to consider. It's working for us in the sense it stops the mentally ill from getting their hands on a weapon. Of course it won't stop the professional crim, we know that. But it's interesting that firearms offences are much fewer since this action was taken.  

I spoke briefly to Margaret the morning before her senseless slaying and will always remember her smiling face as she went about her busy rounds making the road safer for the holiday pilgrims.
Here is her memorial page:
I hope her family and co-workers can take some small comfort knowing that she died protecting others.

If he didn't stop for a tire chain check, why would he stop for a gun check? I'm afraid your comment is a non-sequitur, as the one has absolutely nothing to do with the other.  For decades, criminals have been bringing weapons into parks whether it was legal to do so or not.  The list of 9 National Park officers murdered in the line of duty going back to the 1930s testifies to this fact.  Sadly, it would have happened whether or not guns were banned in National Parks.  Let's be reasonable and place the blame where it rightfully belongs: a sick individual who made the decision to pull the trigger.  This is not the time for political agendas but for remembering a fallen comrade.

Bad people will bring guns in parks regardless of the law! 

If ONLY there were less GUNS to begin with!  This debate would be moot and perhaps Ranger Anderson would still be alive.  God rest her in peace.

 Here's a photo of this fine fellow.  The idea that anyone "needs" firepower like he's holding is simply obscene.  Even more obscene is the fact that there are people out there who claim it's his "right."

Guns do not kill. Criminals do. If we outlaw guns, criminals will be the only ones armed.
If a criminal knows that we will face weapon, he/she will look for the little sheep...

    Maybe I'm being a little bit argumentative, but did you hear what happened when he shot four people before heading off to Mt. Rainier?

They were apparently all showing off their guns when an argument ensued that hasn't quite been described in full detail. He was in a room full of very well armed people and still shot at them. When he got to Mt. Rainier, he shot at two heavily armed NPS law enforcement rangers. He hardly went after any "little sheep". He went right after the people with guns. He was possibly more heavily armed than the rangers were, which is saying something considering about half the LE ranger vehicles I've seen carry an AR-15. My understanding is that he had (from the photo of him showing off his tattoos and guns) that he had a semi-automatic shotgun with a large detachable clip.

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