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A plane search of Mount Rainier National Park for a suspect in the murder of a park ranger, sighted what is thought to be the suspect’s body lying face-down in the snow on Monday, according to authorities. It could be hours before they reach the body, and though it is yet to be identified, it is believed to be that of Benjamin Barnes, a 24-year-old Iraq War veteran.
“Obviously the strong probability is that it is” the gunman, Ed Troyer, Pierce County Sheriff’s spokesman, stated. After a shooting at a New Year’s house party that wounded four people, Barnes is thought to have fled to the park to hide. He is suspected by the authorities to have shot and killed Margaret Anderson later on Sunday. Police began a manhunt for the veteran and cleared out all of the park’s visitors. They believed Barnes had survivalist and weapons training.
Barnes had had trouble adjusting to regular life after he got home from the war and was suspected of suffering from suicidal tendencies and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Court documents show that his daughter’s mother had sought a temporary restraining order against him during a custody battle because she believed he was suffering from PTSD after he was sent to Iraq for a year in 2007. She said that he text messaged her, claiming that he wanted to die, that he was easily angered and depressed, and that he had an arsenal of weapons in his home. The mother said she was afraid for their child.
Police showed undated photos of Barnes posing with two big weapons. A guardian ad litem, in November 2011, made a recommendation of classes for communication and parenting and said Barnes should have supervised visits with his daughter twice a week. A mental health evaluation was also mandated.
On New Year’s in a house located close to Seattle, gunfire erupted during an argument at a party of which Barnes was in attendance, according to Sgt. Cindi West, the spokeswoman for King County Sheriff. Two other people, who had fled the shooting, were found and West said that authorities attempted to locate Barnes, asking his family to try to get him to turn himself in and “tell his side of the story”.
A ranger started following him after he flew through a checkpoint on Sunday morning, while Anderson, mother of two and married to another park ranger, blocked the street to potentially force Benjamin Barnes to pull over. Instead, the driver fired a gun and shot Anderson before she was able to get out of her vehicle, spokesperson Troyer said. Park Superintendent, Randy King, stated, “It’s just a huge tragedy – for the family, the park, and the park service.”
The shooting has renewed debate over loaded firearms and whether they should be allowed into Mount Rainier or not. Bill Wade of the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees has stated in several news reports that Congress needs to reconsider the 2010 law that makes state laws responsible for gun regulation in national parks.