UPDATE at 4:10 p.m. PT, January 2, 2012
CNN is reporting that the National Park Service said the body spotted by personnel in an aircraft is confirmed to be Benjamin Colton Barnes, suspected of shooting and killing park ranger Margaret Anderson the previous day.
Law enforcement officers searching for the person who shot and killed Park Ranger Margaret Anderson yesterday in Mount Rainier National Park in Washington state, today spotted from an aircraft a face-down body and believe it may be 24-year old Benjamin Barnes, the suspect in the fatal shooting. The thermal infrared equipment on the aircraft did not detect any heat signature on the body. It will take about two hours for officers on the ground to snowshoe to the location. Obviously, it has not been 100% confirmed that the body is that of Barnes, or that Barnes is the person who killed Ranger Anderson.
Members of a SWAT team have been snowshoeing through chest-deep snow searching for the shooter. The team was not trained or equipped for tracking a suspect in deep snow and rugged terrain, but they were outfitted by National Park Service personnel with specialized equipment and information.
More details have emerged about the shooting. Driving a vehicle, the shooter approached a checkpoint in Mount Rainier National Park at which park rangers check every vehicle to ensure they have tire chains. He failed to stop and fled in his vehicle. The ranger at the checkpoint radioed ahead to Ranger Margaret Anderson who blocked the road with her vehicle. Dan Camiccia, another ranger, also responded, and according to CNN “they confronted him together,” Camiccia said. The shooter exited the vehicle and fired multiple rounds from a shotgun at both rangers while they were still in their vehicles, fatally wounding Anderson before she had a chance to get out of her patrol vehicle. Camiccia was not hit, but when the gunman approached him, he put his vehicle in reverse and left the area.
The suspect fled into the forest through deep snow and kept responding officers at bay by shooting at them with a rifle as they attempted to assist Ranger Anderson. No one was hit by the rifle shots, but at least 90 minutes elapsed before they were able to access her location. When they reached the 34-year-old mother of two, she had died.
Inside the suspect’s abandoned vehicle, officers found multiple weapons, ammunition, body armor and survival gear.
The suspect in the murder of Anderson, Benjamin C. Barnes, is also a suspect in a shooting in a Skyway, Washington apartment that left four people injured on New Year’s Eve. It was thought that he planned to hide in the National Park after the apartment shooting.
Barnes had two restraining orders filed against him by the mother of his one-year-old child. In an affidavit, the woman wrote that Barnes was suicidal and possibly suffered from PTSD after deploying to Iraq in 2007-2008. She said he gets easily irritated, angry and depressed and keeps an arsenal of weapons in his home.