The person of interest identified in the killing of a Mount Rainier National Park ranger today is believed to have military experience and survivalist skills, and may have been involved in a shooting earlier in the day that left four wounded in Skyway, Wash.
Police said they are looking for Benjamin Colton Barnes, 24, in connection with the killing today of Ranger Margaret Anderson, a 34-year-old mother of two.
“The little girls will have very few memories of their mom anymore,” Anderson’s father Paul Kritsch said.
According to police, Anderson was shot and killed during a confrontation this morning. Police say a ranger in the park tried stopping a driver, but the man behind the wheel sped away, only to be stopped again by Anderson.
“The suspect fled but was stopped by Margaret Anderson at the roadblock about a mile below Paradise at a location called Barn Flat,” park spokesman Kevin Bacher said. “Shots were fired and Margaret was injured, possibly killed. I do not know for sure whether she died immediately or later.”
The shooter escaped on foot into the dense forest of the national park, and the FBI has joined officers from Pierce County and other local agencies searching the area. Pierce County Sheriff’s Department Det. Ed Troyer told ABC News affiliate KOMO-TV in Seattle that it is believed Barnes has an assault rifle.
Barnes’ car was found filled with body armor, survival gear and weapons, and Pierce County officials said they believe he has experience in the back country.
About 150 officers, including officials from the Washington State Patrol, the U.S. Forest Service and the FBI, as well as Pierce County and other local agencies were on the mountain.
Adding to the concern as the search wore on was the fact that there were believed to be about 100 people in the lodges and cabins on Mount Rainier and approximately 125 people in the visitor center.
Police said they are investigating Barnes’ connection to the area and warned that anyone who sees him should not approach him but instead contact police.
Barnes was also considered a person interest in a shooting that left four people wounded at a house party in the early morning hours today in Skyway.
Deputies received a 911 call reporting the shooting around 3 a.m., and when they arrived they found three men and a woman wounded, said Sgt. Cindi West with the King County Sheriff’s Office.
According to witnesses, there was some kind of dispute at the party and a man was asked to leave, but he returned a short time later and opened fire, then fled, West said.