MOUNT RAINIER NATIONAL PARK, Wash. (AP) — The body of an Iraq war veteran suspected in the slaying of a Mount Rainier National Park ranger was believed to have been found in chest-deep snow on Monday, authorities said.
Authorities believe Benjamin Colton Barnes, 24, fled to the remote park following an earlier shooting that wounded four near Seattle, sparking a search by SWAT team members and other police.
The body believed to be Barnes was found face down in the snow, said Washington State Patrol spokesman Guy Gill. The identity was not confirmed.
Almost all park visitors were evacuated from the area following the shooting of ranger Margaret Anderson. The park remained closed for a second day Monday.
Barnes has had a troubled transition to civilian life, with accusations he suffers post-traumatic stress disorder and is suicidal.
He was involved in a custody dispute in Tacoma in July, during which his toddler daughter’s mother sought a temporary restraining order against him, according to court documents.
The woman told authorities he was suicidal and possibly suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder after deploying to Iraq in 2007-2008, and had once sent her a text message saying “I want to die.”
She alleged that he gets easily irritated, angry and depressed and keeps an arsenal of weapons in his home. She wrote that she feared for the child’s safety.
Undated photos provided by police showed a shirtless, tattooed Barnes brandishing two weapons, a large rifle and a smaller firearm with a large clip.
In November 2011, a guardian ad litem recommended parenting and communication classes for both parents and recommending Barnes be allowed to continue supervised visits with the child, two days a week.
That visitation schedule was to continue until he completed a domestic violence evaluation and mental health evaluation and complied with all treatment recommendations.
On New Year’s, there was an argument at a house party in Skyway, south of Seattle, and gunfire erupted, police said. Barnes was connected to the shooting, said Sgt. Cindi West, King County Sheriff’s spokeswoman.
Two of the three people who fled the scene were located. West said authorities were trying to find Barnes and had been in contact with his family to ask them to convince him to step forward and “tell his side of the story.”
At Mount Rainier around 10:20 a.m. Sunday, the gunman had sped past a checkpoint to make sure vehicles have tire chains, which are sometimes necessary in snowy conditions, Bacher said.
One ranger began following him while Anderson, a 34-year-old mother of two young children who was married to another Mount Rainier park ranger, eventually blocked the road to stop the driver.
Before fleeing, the gunman fired shots at both Anderson and the ranger that trailed him, but only Anderson was hit.
Anderson would have been armed, as she was one of the rangers tasked with law enforcement, Bacher said. Pierce Co. Sheriff’s spokesman Ed Troyer said she was shot before she had even got out of the vehicle.