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Mount Rainier National Park in Washington state has been closed since yesterday after a gunman murdered one of its rangers.
A body has been found dead in a ditch in Mount Rainier National Park, Seattle's King 5 News reported.
Law enforcement officials confirm it is the body of shooter Benjamin Colton Barnes, the Los Angeles Times reported. The Pierce County sheriff's spokesman Ed Troyer said Barnes probably died of exposure, according to the LA Times. The body was spotted face down in a rugged area from a plane, Ranger Kevin Bacher said at a media briefing.
According to the LA Times:
It took snowshoe-clad searchers some time after the aircraft sighting to reach the body and confirm the identification, park spokeswoman Lee Snook said.
Ranger Margaret Anderson, 34, was killed yesterday morning as she attempted to stop the suspect's car, the Seattle Times reported. Police suspect she was shot by Barnes, a 24-year-old Iraq war veteran who reportedly suffers from depression.
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Mount Rainier National Park was on lockdown after Anderson was found dead. Over a hundred visitors had to be held in park buildings and then evacuated from the park under cover of darkness, as police continue to hunt for a man they believe to be armed and dangerous.
Prior to Anderson's murder, Barnes was wanted for questioning in connection with a shooting at a New Year's Eve party in Skyway, south of Seattle, in which four people were injured.
The morning after that incident, a car later found to be registered to Barnes sped through a checkpoint in Mount Rainier, prompting Anderson and another ranger to pursue it and attempt to set up a roadblock with their vehicle.
According to park spokesman Lee Taylor, the driver then opened fire on the rangers' car with a shotgun. The shooter continued to fire as SWAT team officers arrived on the scene, meaning that authorities were unable to reach Anderson for nearly 90 minutes. The other ranger was not hurt.
The suspect fled on foot, leaving behind the car which was found to contain weapons, body armor and survival gear. An assault rifle known to have been fired on officers was missing, however.
According to Lee Taylor:
"It's really not safe right now. We've got a guy on the loose with a gun, and he's obviously willing to use it."
A total of 125 visitors and park staff were rounded up and moved into the visitors' center for their own safety, said Pierce County sheriff's spokesman Ed Troyer. Officers escorted them from the park early this morning before it got light.
Mount Rainier remains closed today, as 200 officers from the National Park Service, FBI, Pierce County and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife hunt for the gunman in the park's 368 square miles of mountainous, wooded terrain.
State Patrol spokesman Guy Gill said circumstances gave the suspect the advantage:
"He's barricaded down in the woods, armed. It puts officers at a disadvantage. It requires a lot of planning."
Barnes served in Iraq between 2007 and 2008, according to the Associated Press. He was hospitalized last January after threatening to kill himself, the Seattle Times said, and the mother of his 1-year-old daughter sought a restraining order against him on the grounds that he is allegedly depressed, easily angered and keeps "a small arsenal" of weapons in his home.
Anderson was married to another Mount Rainier ranger, with whom she had two young daughters, park superintendent Randy King told the AP. She was the first ranger to be killed in the line of duty at the park.
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