MOUNT RAINIER NATIONAL PARK, Wash. — A Mount Rainier National Park ranger was fatally shot following a New Year's Day traffic stop, and the 368-square-mile park in Washington state was closed as dozens of officers searched for the armed gunman over snowy and rugged terrain.
Pierce County Sheriff's spokesman Ed Troyer said late Sunday afternoon that Benjamin Colton Barnes, a 24-year-old believed to have survivalist skills, was a "strong person of interest" in the slaying of Margaret Anderson, 34. A parks spokesman said Barnes was an Iraq war veteran.
Barnes was also a suspect in the early Sunday morning shooting of four people at a house party south of Seattle, police said.
Kevin Bacher, a spokesman for the park, said about 125 people were still at the visitor's center Sunday night along with five law enforcement officers protecting the facility. He said crews had considered removing them in armored vehicles, but decided not to take any risk.
The park will remain closed today, officials said.
Bacher said that at Mount Rainier around 10:20 a.m. Sunday, the gunman had sped past a checkpoint used to assess the tires of visitors. One ranger began following him while Anderson eventually blocked the road to stop the driver.
Before fleeing, the gunman fired shots at Anderson and the ranger that trailed him, but only Anderson was hit, Bacher said.
Park superintendent Randy King said Anderson is a mother of two young daughters who has served as a park ranger for about four years. King said Anderson's husband also was working as a ranger elsewhere in the park at the time of the shooting.