The search for a gunman wanted in the fatal shooting of Margaret Anderson, a Mt. Rainier National Park Ranger, came to an end Monday afternoon. Police found the body of the suspect, Benajmin Colton Barnes, in a drainage ditch wearing only a t-shirt, jeans, and one shoe. Authorities suspect he died from hypothermia.
Barnes was the primary suspect in the death of 34-year-old Anderson who was fatally shot Sunday morning, New Year's Day, during a routine traffic stop in the park. Police say the suspect did not respond to a request to pull over at a checkpoint, which prompted a ranger to radio for assistance. Anderson responded to that call and set up her patrol car as a roadblock.
That’s when Anderson, police say, was ambushed and shot before exiting her vehicle.
The suspect then fled into the vast national park whose border is about 50 miles southeast of Seattle.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the 368-square-mile park was placed on lockdown and remained closed Monday as about 125 visitors and 17 staff members spent half the night held-up at the Paradise visitor's center, about a mile above where Anderson was shot, after park officials determined it was too dangerous to let them leave.
Authorities say evacuations began shortly after midnight, with visitors being escorted in small groups down to a fire station near park headquarters in Ashford, Washington where they were questioned by the FBI.
Police had called the 24-year-old Barnes, an Iraq war veteran, a "strong person of interest,” who they said was armed and dangerous, and highly trained in survival skills.
On Monday, a local Seattle television station reported that a body had been found dead within Mount Rainier National Park. Police later confirmed the identity of Barnes.
Mount Rainier National Park spokeswoman Lee Taylor told CNN there is about four to five feet of snow on the ground, including about two feet of fresh powder, where the gunman had escaped.
"There's a lot of snow on the ground, (and) it would be difficult to move through quickly," Taylor told CNN. "And it's heavily forested."
Mount Rainier’s summit elevation is 14,411 feet and is considered to be one of the most dangerous active volcanoes in the world, comprising of 235,625 acres in the Cascade Range.
Authorities say Barnes was considered a suspect in an earlier shooting that broke out at a New Years Eve party in Skyway, Washington that left four people wounded, two of them critically.
In July of 2011, the mother of Barnes’ child had alleged he suffered from post-traumatic stress following his deployments to Iraq. According to court documents, Barnes was involved in a custody dispute in Tacoma during which the mother sought a temporary restraining order against him. In an affidavit, the woman wrote that Barnes was suicidal and possibly suffered from PTSD after his deployment to Iraq in 2007-2008.
She said he was easily irritated, angry and depressed and kept an arsenal of weapons in his home, according to court records.
Police recovered the abandoned blue Pontiac registered to Barnes which contained weapons, body armor and survival gear.
It has been legal for people to take loaded firearms into Mount Rainier since 2010, when a federal law went into effect that made possession of firearms in national parks subject to state gun laws.