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.


Kurt - according to several reports, the gunman was not driving out of the park after turning around. He blew past a stop where rangers were checking vehicles for chains, and encountered Ranger Anderson's roadblock on the way up to Paradise. The general feeling among staff at Paradise -- as expressed first-hand on some social media -- is that her actions "may have prevented a bloodbath". Given that the gunman was driving up a one-way road (only outlet closed in winter), with a busy Visitor Center at the top, in a vehicle that apparently had evidence of multiple weapons, body armor and possibly other survival gear, their speculation may be accurate.

I am very saddened to hear about the death of Ranger Anderson, we have enjoyed parks around the USA and all the kindness and help offered by the Park Ranger's was always amazing. Prayers to the family of Ranger Anderson and all Ranger's that are out everyday doing their jobs so that we, the public, can come enjoy the beautiful park's God has given to us to use.

The irony -- it looks like she attempted to stop him out of concern for HIS safety.

This proves that visitors should not be allowed to bring guns in the parks. Those who passed the law that allows guns in National Parks should feel some responsiblity for Ranger Anderson. May GOD help her family during this difficult time.

My husband and I visit and camp regularly at many National Parks. The rangers are true public servants and heroes. This is an incredibly tragic event and our thoughts are with her husband and children. Thank you to all the rangers for all you do every day to keep everyone safe.

Honey, that law did not allow this situation to happen. Anyone who has already killed someone with a gun and has a car full of weaponry, ammo, and survival gear; or who would start a fire fight with leo's would not be detered by a little ole law which says he cannot bring a gun into a National Park.

I don't think the law allowing visitors to bring guns in the parks is the problem. Gun related violence/killings/suicides have happened in national parks long before the law to allow visitors to bring guns into parks was passed (obviously, people were bringing them in even though it was illegal). I seriously doubt the gunman in this situation, had it been 2 years ago (before the law to allow guns in national parks was passed), would have thought "Hey, it's illegal to bring guns into national parks... I guess I won't go in then". He had a reason for going into the park, and it was not for recreation. The people we need to worry about (such as the gunman in this situation) will bring guns into national parks whether there is a law prohibiting it or not (as shown in all of the gun related incidents occuring in national parks prior to 2010).

You are right on.

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.

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.

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."

Obviously if guns were still outlawed in national Parks this guy would have still brought all the guns he had in the car anyway. Do you really think that saying you can't bvring guns into the parks would keep him from doing so?

My thoughts and prays go out to Ranger Andersons family and all the staff at Mt. Rainier National Park. This really is a senseless and tragic loss for the NPS Family.

"Even more obscene is the fact that there are people out there who claim it's his "right."
So you think the constitution is "obscene"
And I ask again for Bruce (it didn't get posted the first time" - what is your remedy to get "less guns"?

Like these great wild places words can't express the feelings I have for this tragedy. In the effort to derive sense and perhaps blame one might consider the scenario if the Perp had blown by Ranger Anderson as he had the check station earlier and reached the visitor center with more innocents present. A much larger tragedy could have occured but maybe there would have been an individual raised in a two parent home, grounded in responsibility and respect that did carry a firearm instead of just the twisted and violent being armed. I'm afraid the culture has declined in many cases losing, for many, the ability to deal with the tests of life for a variety of reasons that aren't always apparent or accepted. Let us mourn Ranger Anderson, support her family and try and see clearly in this tragedy's aftermath. There are an expanding number of individuals out there that are standing in the gap for Ranger Anderson's family including many outside the NPS community. That's what families do.

As disbelief turns into reality, it is quite possible that Ranger Margaret Anderson's action saved countless lives. My gratitude and thoughts go to Ranger Margaret Anderson, her family, all the men and women of the National Park Service Law Enforcement staff who make our National Parks safe for our use and enjoyment.

I am very saddened any time one of our Rangers, Police, Military, etc. are killed in the line of duty. I do think that Ranger Anderson may have saved many lives with her action and it is sad that she had to pay for that with her life.
All this discussion about gun ownership is too late in her case. This is not a matter of whether it is legal to carry a weapon into parks now (I don't like that, but it is now the law), but what 'kind' of weapons citizens are legally allowed to own. In that picture, both of those weapons (shotgun with maybe 20 clip mag for high powered buck shot and maybe an AR-15) should never be allowed for private citizens. We don't let people go buy grenades, M-16's, or other automatic weapons and other military grade weapons. Why? Because they are too dangerous as are the weapons he had. So, why we can't have reasonable laws that prevent private ownership of these kinds of weapons is beyond me. It may have prevented this if it was illegal to sell, buy, or possess these weapons. One more thing, guns don't kill; people kill; is not a good argument. Guns make it FAR EASIER for people to kill than using a knife, bat, sword, etc.

this is just so sad and tragic. my heart goes out to her family, friends, and all of the park staff.

@ecbuck: Ban them. Abolish private gun ownership so that only the military, law enforcement, criminals, and crazies have them. Dry up the supply so that the first two groups have the edge over the last two. I'd put my faith in that situation much more readily than being able to whip out my own gun and defend myself from sudden, irrational, callous attack. Robert said it well: "Guns make it FAR EASIER for people to kill than using a knife, bat, sword, etc." Take the darned things out of the hands of criminals and crazies! Where in the HECK did this guy acquire an Uzi and AK-47 (or their look-alikes), anyway? Why is it so damned EASY to do so? [Steady there, Bruce. You're getting yourself worked up again. Ready? Begin: OMMmmmmm... OMMmmmmm... OMMmmmmm...]

Bruce - thats what I figured. Ignore the 2nd amendment. Prevent citizens from protecting themselves. Works real well in dictatorships.
Good luck waiting for the military or law enforcement to protect you when those crazies and criminals bust through your door. Perhaps you can ask them to wait until the police come.
What do you think would have happened to this women if guns were banned?

No, ec, the Constitution is not obscene, but sometimes its interpretation is. Why do we completely forget half of the Second Amendment? Guns are not obscene. But allowing people to possess weaponry that goes far beyond reasonable is. See those high-capacity clips in the photo?

Many court decisions besides gun rulings are also questionable. Citizens United is a prime example.

In Utah, anyone may go to a gun show and purchase anything without having to submit to a background check. Is that how we support a "well regulated militia?" And when I read an article by NRA's Wayne LaPierre in which he outright calls for "armed rebellion" when the "government tries to rescind our divine right" to possess firearms of all kinds, I find it very alarming. The lack of any kind of rational control of weapons is what's obscene.

People say that Mr. Barnes was deranged and heavily armed. That the 2010 law allowing loaded guns in national parks does not and did not affect his murder of Ranger Anderson. I disagree. Where did Mr. Barnes on the lam decide was the best, most easily accessible place to get back into the back country. Mt. Ranier National Park. Parks are for visitors whose intent to enjoy, recreate and learn and help support the preservation of precious national treasures, natural and cultural. If Park Rangers had observed those guns in Mr. Barnes' vehicle at the welcome kiosk, this new law would have prevented them from taking those guns from Mr. Barnes.
I'm not a fan of the rider that allowed guns on NPS land. That it was inserted into a credit card reform bill was rather appalling to me.

That being said, I'm not sure anything would have happened that much differently save the timing of when things happen and the response time to the incident depending on where the LE rangers are when they get the call. I'm guessing that he didn't have any weapons visible when he passed through the entrance station, and probably retrieved then from his trunk to prepare to blow by the chain checkpoint and prepare for any resistance. If any weapons were visible, I'm not sure that an unarmed ranger (although sometimes it's an armed LE ranger) is going to be able to do much. It's always been legal to have weapons in national parks that are unloaded in the trunk. Now the cache that he had might arouse suspicions if seen, but I've never seen a request to open a car trunk at an entrance station.

There may be state law stating that driving with a loaded weapon in the passenger compartment is illegal in Washington. I don't know what Washington's law would be.

"but sometimes its interpretation is."
There is nothing to intepret. The 2nd ammendment says the right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. The statement is absolute - it doesn't say "only if the citizen is in the militia" or "subject to the regulation of the militia" it says "shall not be infringed". The lead in clause is irrelevant. At the time of the writing of the 2nd amendment, citizens owned guns and when the need arose, formed a militia and used their own guns (the most powerful available at the time). Noone was telling them what or how many guns they could own or how they could procure them.
An no, I don't have a problem with no background check because anyone that wants a gun to use for illegal purposes would get one without going through the "legal" process.
Off topic - I beleive you would the one that suggested that subsidizing the Chevy Volt would create jobs. There goes that theory.

EC, I think it could be argued that, in light of the Supreme Court's 5-4 decision on the Heller case, that there is a lot to be interpreted in the 2nd Amendment.

Indeed, according to the following article from the Washington Post, more clarity in that ruling is being sought.

“Three years and more than 400 legal challenges later, courts — so far — have held that the Supreme Court’s ruling in Heller was narrow and limited, and that the Second Amendment does not interfere with the people’s right to enact legislation protecting families and communities from gun violence,” the (Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence) said in a report optimistically titled “Hollow Victory?”

Sorry Kurt, - that isn't interpretation - that is Judicial activism ignoring what the constitution says. Supreme Court rulings have struck down laws restricting gun ownership. Both Heller and McDonald ruled that way.

I think when 4 justices disagree with the interpretation of the other 5, the matter is not as clean cut as it would be with a 9-0 decision...some might argue that some or all of the 5 were practicing judicial activism.

But I'm not trying to debate the 2nd Amendment here, just pointing out the obvious that interpretation can at times be in eye of the beholder.

Here in Ogden, Utah we had five police officers shot last night during a drug raid. One officer dead, three still critical.

The shooter is still alive and will probably survive. A "decorated Iraq veteran" according to his family. Details still sketchy, but he apparently opened fire with an assault rifle with large capacity clip. (Not confirmed yet.) Of course, the excuse now is PTSD. (Turning into a favorite catch-all isn't it?)

So again I have to ask, why does any normal citizen need a heavy assault weapon with high capacity clips? Where did he get the weapon? In Utah anyone able to walk a few steps may qualify for a concealed weapon permit. It's not even necessary to prove they know how to safely use the weapon and they are not required to even have fired the thing.

And to top it all off, anyone -- I repeat ANYONE -- may go to a gun show and take advantage of the "gun show loophole" and purchase virtually anything their little heart may desire. No background checks necessary. Yet the NRA opposes any attempts to close that gaping hole with violent rhetoric and fear-mongering.

Something is simply far out of balance here. After the shooting of Gabriel Giffords in Arizona, shouldn't we have taken a long look at how easily weapons may be obtained by people like this one in Ogden and Jared Loughner, who shot Cong. Giffords?

The Second Amendment reads: "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." How can we continue to ignore the first phrase of that document? Doesn't that in itself call for at least some kind of control over who keeps the arms?

I know this will be a never ending debate, but while we fiddle, good people will be in danger.

I don't think this argument is a tasteful way to memorialize Ranger Anderson.

I agree with you Lee. I have no problem with people carrying firearms as long as they go through classes and everything is well documented, but anyone can get one. My father has a felony assault charge from when he kidnapped and beat my mother. He has always carried weapons and does have a concealed weapons permit and even works as a deputy. My ex-fiance attempted suicide by cop 2 times in the past and was able to purchase 2 guns and have a concealed weapons permit. It really disturbs me that people with obvious problems are able to get weapons. And who needs an assault rifle anyway?

Perhaps the most tasteful way to memorialize Ranger Anderson -- and many others -- would be to finally get serious about effectively addressing the abuse of the Second Amendment that is becoming all too prevalant in America.

One needs to take lessons and pass a test to drive a car, but apparently just about any moron can buy an assault weapon. Just saying...

"In Utah anyone able to walk a few steps may qualify for a concealed
weapon permit. It's not even necessary to prove they know how to safely
use the weapon and they are not required to even have fired the thing."
Lee - you are entitled to your opinions but facts are facts - and you are wrong on the facts. Utah has extensive requirements for a conceal carry permit including background checks and training.

I believe the best way to memorialize Ranger Anderson would be to focus on how this country fails in the recognition, treatment, and long-term care of those with mental illness - particularly those whose illness may very well have been caused by trauma sustained while in service of this country.
It sure is fun to argue about guns, especially when there's a really ugly elephant in the room that no one wants to discuss. This guy could have easily killed Ranger Anderson with a six-shot revolver. We could outlaw one weapon after another (and I'm not necessarily against that in some cases), but we're curing symptoms and ignoring the disease.
It seems like whenever we have a guy like this or Jared Loughner in Arizona or any of a host of other killers, there are signs. Big, flashing neon warning signs. Until we can see those signs and have more recourse than to say, "I hope he never snaps and kills someone" I guess the best we can do is have hypothetical arguments about whther he could have achieved the same result with a smaller gun or a stronger background check.
I'm sure it's unpopular to say this, but I have sympathy for Benjamin Barnes. He likely died in physical and mental anguish. That shouldn't have happened anymore than Margaret Anderson should have died doing her duty as a ranger. Some proactive care might have prevented both regardless of what the 2nd amendment says.

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

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".

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

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.

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.

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

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." 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.

Lee - could you tell us what states recently decided to refuse to recognize Utah CCW's? Colorado doesn't require range time either and I am not aware of any state that has dropped recognition of the Colorado CCW.
And what is the gun show "loophole" for getting a CCW?

I believe you are going in the correct direction. The grounding that is growing less and less apparent in this culture just does not provide that buffer zone in which to process life's challenges. Add misuse of drugs and we and those that are enlisted to deal with the dark side, really have their hands full. What could those foundations that are becoming more and more absent, be?

New Mexico and Nevada will no longer recognize Utah CCW permits. There were some others but I couldn't find that information this morning. I think Ohio was one of them.

Here is an article on the subject from the Salt Lake Tribune:

The gun show loophole has been nationally debated for a long time. It allows private individuals to sell weapons and other equipment at gun shows or privately without being required to do background checks on the persons purchasing the weapon.