Jan 2, 2012
A National Park Service spokesman couldn't immediately confirm reports from KING/5 news that Benjamin Colton Barnes -- the 24-year-old suspected of killing Ranger Margaret Anderson early Sunday -- had been found dead.
"There won't be any real closure ... until this is wrapped up, so the sooner we can wrap this up one way or another the better," Ranger Kevin Bacher said at a press conference late Monday morning.
More than 200 law officers will be searching for Barnes, a 24-year-old Iraq war veteran suspected of killing Anderson following a routine traffic stop Sunday morning. Barnes is also a supsect in a Skyway shooting in the early hours of New Year's Day.
Anderson was shot after a driver, suspected to be Barnes, drove through a tire inspection checkpoint at the park Sunday morning. Anderson and another ranger pursued him and Barnes fired on the rangers near the Longmire ranger station, critically wounding Anderson, Ranger Kevin Bacher said Monday morning.
After Anderson was shot, the shooter – allegedly Barnes – then fired on police who attempted to recover her body, Bacher said. He kept rescuers at bay for 90 minutes before they ultimately reached Anderson and found the 34-year-old mother of two dead.
In addition to ground crews, searchers will use aircraft with heat-sensing capabilities to hunt for Barnes. They pulled back at nightfall.
Barnes is also suspected in a shooting in Skyway early Sunday morning. King County Sheriff’s Office investigators believe Barnes participated in the shooting, which left four people injured.
Speaking Monday morning, Bacher said investigators believe Barnes may have fled to the park to hide.
“We’re speculating that he may have come up here for exactly that reason, to get away,” Bacher said. “The speculation is that he threw some stuff in the car and came up here to hide out.”
Safety concerns prompted authorities to keep the tourists quarantined at a visitor center as the manhunt unfolded. Early Monday morning, officers escorted them out of the park in groups of vehicles over the span of a few hours.
Investigators are moving forward assuming Barnes survived the night. Bacher said it wasn’t immediately clear whether he had the equipment or skills needed to live in the cold, alpine environment.
“If he had those skills and the right equipment, you could be quite comfortable,” Bacher said. “All of us are hoping that that is not the case.
“We also know from very recent experience that it can be deadly if you don’t have those skills. … I don’t think any of us would be sorry if he was not in a position to fire on” search crews.
According to Associated Press reports, Barnes was involved in a custody dispute in Tacoma in July, during which the toddler's mother sought a temporary restraining order against him, according to court documents. In an affidavit, the woman wrote that Barnes was suicidal and possibly suffered from PTSD after deploying to Iraq from 2007 to 2008. She said he gets easily irritated, angry and depressed and keeps an arsenal of weapons in his home.
Barnes was also a suspect in the early Sunday morning shooting of four people at a house party south of Seattle, police said.
King County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Cindi West said in a statement that Barnes was connected to an early-morning shooting at a New Year's house party in Skyway that left four people injured, two critically. That shooting happened about 3 a.m. and stemmed from an argument over a gun.
West said three people fled the scene. Two were located, and West said authorities were searching for Barnes and had been in contact with his family, trying to have them convince him to "come to the police and tell his side of the story" in the Skyway shooting.