Mount Rainier evacuation complete as suspect's body found in snow (video)
Mount Rainier evacuation Monday was caused by the shooting death of a park ranger Sunday. The suspected gunman, an Iraq war veteran thought to have survivalist skills, was found dead Monday.
Ted S. Warren/AP
The drama caused by the shooting death of a park ranger in Mount Rainier National Park appeared to end Monday afternoon when officials found what they believed to be the body of the alleged gunman.
The popular 368-square-mile park was closed Sunday morning and a massive manhunt launched when Park Ranger Margaret Anderson was killed by an assailant who fired at her when she tried to pull over his car at a required tire chain checkpoint. When the car failed to stop, Ranger Anderson used her car to block the road. The assailant jumped from his car and opened fire with a shotgun fatally wounding Ms. Anderson before she left her vehicle, police said.
The body found face down in the snow, and partially submerged in the Paradise River, is believed to be that of Benjamin Colton Barnes, a spokesman for the Washington State Patrol said Monday. Police officials had earlier identified the Iraq war veteran as “a strong person of interest” in the killing. "At this point, we're just waiting to confirm it," Ed Troyer, with the Pierce County Sheriff's Office, told CNN.
The suspect was believed to have survivalist skills. Police said he fled into creeks and other waterways in the park, making it more difficult to find him. Police used helicopters with infrared cameras to try and spot him in the snow-covered terrain that included between four and five feet of snow on the ground.
Police said Mr. Barnes also was a suspect in a shooting early Sunday morning at a house party in Skyway, south of Seattle, in which four people were injured. Officials speculated that Barnes may have fled to the national park seeking to escape from that incident.
Barnes appeared to have had a troubled adjustment to civilian life. The Associated Press reported that Barnes was involved in a July, 2011 custody dispute during which the mother of his child sought a temporary restraining order alleging that he was suicidal and possibly suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of his deployment in Iraq from 2007 to 2008.
Mount Rainier National Park, located about 50 miles southeast of Seattle, covers 368 square miles. Ninety-seven percent of the park has been designated as wilderness by Congress. Early Monday about 125 visitors to the park were evacuated and the park remains closed.
[Editor's note: Corrects earlier version that did not include that the body was found partially submerged in a river].