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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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"The right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."  The Second Amendement never says this.  It says a "well-regulated militia" shall not be infinged.  When you start removing commas, you change what the Constitution actually says. 

"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

This isn't a question of interpretation; it's a matter of basic high school-level literacy--of understanding what the main subject of the sentence is.

Kirby Adams makes an excellent point about the "elephant in the room".  We do not do enough in this country to deal with mental illness.  After all it costs money and people don't want to pay for it.  But in the process we are all doing a great disservice to ourselves, those in law enforcement who often have to deal with the mentally unstable, and to those we have sent off to fight wars for us and return significantly affected by PTSD. 
Lee Dalton, while I generally agree with your comments here, I feel you are a bit off base when you indicate that PTSD is an excuse.  For those that feel this way, please take the time to get to know some veterans who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Learn something about what they went through over there.  Look at the statistics about the abnormally high rates of suicide, domestic violence, substance abuse (self medication?) and confilicts with law enforcement among those who have served in those areas.  The statistics indicate that PTSD is real, and we, our society as a whole, are not doing enough to deal with it.  We have given these veterans the finest training in the world in firearms use, combat tactics and survival in a war environment.  But, have we given them the finest training in how to deal with the conflicts and frustrations of living in our society back here at home?  Until we as a society get over our squabbles about paying for the help these folks need, we can expect to have more incidents like the one at Mt. Rainier and in Ogden, UT.  What this all boils down to is that these events are senseless tragedies. Ranger Anderson, the Police Officers in Utah are hero's, no question.  Were the veterans involved well ballanced and squared away before they went off to war for us?  I don't know, they may well have been, and may have been heros who were damaged in the process and deserve more from us.  But we well never really know, will we?   

The right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.  Doesn't mention anything about having a right to fire them.

I have a right to keep and bear arms.  I use my shoulders to do this.  Not much to interpret here.  It's right there in black and white.

Several states just decided not to recognize CCPs from Utah because no range time is required.  And the gun show loophole still exists and is widely exploited.

EC, let's just say we agree to disagree and keep it at that.

Kurt - there is "interpretation" and there is "ideology" and there is what the document says.  Doesn't seem to me there is much to interpret in "the right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed".

Zebulon - and cars kill far more than guns.  Just saying.....

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