UPDATE: National Park Fatal Shooting Suspect Found Dead In Creek

MOUNT RAINIER NATIONAL PARK, Wash. (AP) -- An armed Iraq War veteran suspected of killing a Mount Rainier National Park ranger managed to evade snowshoe-wearing SWAT teams and dogs on his trail for nearly a day. He couldn't, however, escape the cold.

A plane searching the remote wilderness for Benjamin Colton Barnes, 24, on Monday discovered his body lying partially submerged in an icy, snowy mountain creek with snow banks standing several feet high on either side.

"He was wearing T-shirt, a pair of jeans and one tennis shoe. That was it," Pierce County Sheriff's spokesman Ed Troyer said.

Barnes did not have any external wounds and appears to have died due to the elements, he said. A medical examiner was at the scene to determine the cause of death. Troyer said two weapons were recovered, but he declined to say where they were located.

According to police and court documents, Barnes had a troubled transition to civilian life, with accusations in a child custody dispute that he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder following his Iraq deployments and was suicidal.

The mother of his toddler daughter sought a temporary restraining order against him, according to court documents.

She alleged that he got easily irritated, angry and depressed and kept 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 large weapons.

The woman told authorities Barnes 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."

In November 2011, a guardian ad litem recommended parenting and communication classes for both parents as well as a visitation schedule for Barnes until he completed evaluations for domestic violence and mental health and complied with treatment recommendations.

Barnes is believed to have fled to the remote park on Sunday to hide after an earlier shooting at a New Year's house party near Seattle that wounded four, two critically. Authorities suspect he then fatally shot ranger Margaret Anderson.

Immediately after the park shooting, police cleared out Mount Rainier of visitors and mounted a manhunt.

Fear that tourists could be caught in the crossfire in a shootout with Barnes prompted officials to hold more than a 100 people at the visitors' center before evacuating them in the middle of the night.

Late Sunday, police said Barnes was a suspect in another shooting incident.

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.

Police believe Barnes headed to the remote park wilderness to "hide out" following the Skyway shooting.

"The speculation is that he may have come up here, specifically for that reason, to get away," parks spokesman Kevin Bacher told reporters early Monday. "The speculation is he threw some stuff in the car and headed up here to hide out."

Anderson had set up a roadblock Sunday morning to stop a man who had blown through a checkpoint rangers use to check if vehicles have tire chains for winter conditions. A gunman opened fire on her before she was able to exit her vehicle, authorities say.

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. Troyer said she was shot before she had even got out of the vehicle.

Park superintendent Randy King said Anderson, a 34-year-old mother of two young girls who was married to another Rainier ranger, had 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.

The shooting renewed debate about a federal law that made it legal for people to take loaded weapons into national parks. The 2010 law made possession of firearms subject to state gun laws.

Bill Wade, the outgoing chair of the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees, said Congress should be regretting its decision.

"The many congressmen and senators that voted for the legislation that allowed loaded weapons to be brought into the parks ought to be feeling pretty bad right now," Wade said.

Wade called Sunday's fatal shooting a tragedy that could have been prevented. He hopes Congress will reconsider the law that took effect in early 2010, but doubts that will happen in today's political climate.

Calls and emails to the National Rifle Association requesting comment were not immediately returned on Monday.

The NRA said media fears of gun violence in parks were unlikely to be realized, the NRA wrote in a statement about the law after it went into effect. "The new law affects firearms possession, not use," it said.

The group pushed for the law saying people have a right to defend themselves against park animals and other people.

King said the park would remain closed Tuesday as the investigation continued and the rangers grieve the loss of their colleague.

"We have been through a horrific experience," King said. "We're going to need a little time to regroup."

Authorities say the body of an Iraq war veteran suspected in the slaying of a Mount Rainier National Park ranger was believed to have been found dead in the park Monday.

He apparently died after trudging into chest-deep snow while trying to elude snow-shoe wearing SWAT team members and other police who were on his trail.

Twenty-four-year-old Benjamin Colton Barnes reportedly fled to the remote park following an earlier shooting that wounded four near Seattle. Washington State Patrol spokesman Guy Gill says a body believed to be Barnes was found face down in the snow. The identity of the body has not been confirmed.

Almost all park visitors had been evacuated from the area following the Sunday slaying of Margaret Anderson. The park remained closed for a second day Monday.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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  • by told you so Location: enc on Jan 4, 2012 at 06:22 AM
    This story is getting old but now it comes out that the murderer was a communications technician; he fixed radios. So much for the theory that he was traumatized by combat.
  • by Sigmund Location: Dix Hill on Jan 3, 2012 at 12:24 PM
    There sure is a lot of armchair psychologizing going on here. You cannot assume that this murder was a consequence of military his service.
  • by Bud on Jan 3, 2012 at 07:19 AM
    We in America have a peculiar way of supporting our troops. We put stickers on our cars and have little parades that make us feel better but do nothing for the troops and veterans. If you really want to do something that helps, try listening to what they have to say. The majority of returning vets will tell you this. Give them what they need, not what you think they want. Your misguided attempts at support do no good. Sorry if you don't like this but that's how it is. I'm on my 33rd year as a commissioned officer in the USMC, 24 tours of duty in 11 different conflict areas, not many of you seem to understand what is really going on.
    • reply
      by Citizen on Jan 3, 2012 at 10:14 AM in reply to Bud
      No obviously we dont and dont understand you either. If you dont like the parades then exercise your freedom to stay home. Sounds like your having a little brag session mixed with a pity party. Maybe YOU should give them what they need rather than sitting back and rebuking us for doing all we KNOW to do.
    • reply
      by Proud of our troops on Jan 3, 2012 at 11:59 AM in reply to Bud
      We probably don't understand Bud, I know I just go by what is reported in the news. I do want to thank you very much for what you do for our country. Maybe somehow you could help the country understand how to help our returning troops, I certainly would do my part.
  • by Native Location: Grantsboro on Jan 3, 2012 at 06:14 AM
    If you think that banning firearm possession in these Parks would have prevented this death then you are crazy. Rather than banning firearm possession, they should try banning murder. Oh wait, it is already illegal. But how can that be? Isn't there a law against murdering people?
  • by gunowner Location: greenville on Jan 3, 2012 at 05:17 AM
    it doesnt matter what the gun law is in the parks, or any where else in the country. criminals will take the guns where ever they want! And if the criminals are going to sneak the guns into places, shouldnt the honest citizens be able to carry guns and protect themselves?
    • reply
      by Native on Jan 3, 2012 at 06:15 AM in reply to gunowner
      Exactly! Well said gunowner!
    • reply
      by Mark on Jan 3, 2012 at 06:27 AM in reply to gunowner
      1 Well said.
  • by AC Location: Columbia on Jan 2, 2012 at 05:08 PM
    Good. Got what he deserved.
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Jan 2, 2012 at 07:12 PM in reply to AC
      So... he deserved the horror of emotional trauma in the battlefield and lack of proper treatment for it? What a nice person you are.. bless your heart.
      • reply
        by AC on Jan 2, 2012 at 10:28 PM in reply to
        Anon: I pulled (2) tours in Vietnam. I did not come home and kill anyone. Bleeding heart liberals like you are what is wrong with our country today. If it feels good, do it no matter what the consequences. IE: homosexuality. I guess you feel the pig in Indiana who killed the 9 year old little girl by beating her brains out with a brick and then sawed her body up with a hacksaw don't deserve the same treatment. I wish the gov. would tax you and you alone to pay to feed and house this piece of ---- for the rest of his life.
        • reply
          by I Fought the Law on Jan 3, 2012 at 03:23 AM in reply to AC
          Good reply AC....thanks for serving our country.
      • reply
        by Just thinking on Jan 3, 2012 at 06:23 AM in reply to
        You are assuming that all his problems stem from the war. I know numerous men who served in the Vietnam war and wars since. Some of them do indeed have PTSD but NONE of then have killed anyone. Makes me wonder exactly what this man was like before joining the military. Was he aggressive then? Had he suffered emotional trama before? Was he quick to anger? Before the military can be blamed, you need to know more details on the man. People are all too quick to blame the military without knowing all the facts.
  • by dumb dumb Location: greenville on Jan 2, 2012 at 04:32 PM
    I'm sure that he would have read and obeyed a 'No Guns Allowed' sign if it would have been posted. No carry in parks ... sounds nuttier than squirrel do do in this case.
  • by John Thomas Location: Greenville on Jan 2, 2012 at 04:15 PM
    This is a tragic story on all sides. On a side note, AP is reporting that gun control groups are blaming this on the recently passed law that allows people to carry firearms national parks. One spokesmmn went so far as to say that congressmen should be ashamed of themselves for "causing this violence". My question for the spokesman of the gun control group is simple... Would a "No Firearms Allowed" sign really have stopped this violence? In case you are wondering, the answer would be no.
    • reply
      by Audra - SoCal on Jan 2, 2012 at 07:10 PM in reply to John Thomas
      Thank you. That's what I was about to post.. what does prohibiting them help in a case like this? Nothing. It's a ridiculous arguement and it always has been. It's as ridiculous as the many restrictions choking the life out of our ability to protect our own homes in California, in fact. Criminals are not affected by these laws. They will obtain and use the guns the same as they always have - ILLEGALLY.
    • reply
      by Native on Jan 3, 2012 at 06:17 AM in reply to John Thomas
      Well said John Thomas and Audra.
  • by Self Trained on Jan 2, 2012 at 02:59 PM
    So much for suvival skills or any skills as far as that goes.I seriously hope they train them better from here on out.Never happen under our political correctness though.
  • by Anonymous Location: New Bern on Jan 2, 2012 at 01:13 PM
    First, my heart goes out to the family of the park ranger and her coworkers. Also my heart goes out to Benjamin's family. I want to thank Benjamin for what he has done for his country, serving in Iraq, rest in peace sir. This is all very upsetting to me. I pray all the veterans get the help they may need after a war that seems senseless...just my opinion.
    • reply
      by Failure? on Jan 2, 2012 at 01:58 PM in reply to
      One wonders why the armed forces continues to overlook mental illness concerning combat veterans. Clearly, the signs were present for some time, according to the story. Illnesses like PTSD can create havoc in the mind. According to his history, he should have been in a locked mental facility. Ultimately, he got what he deserved after killing that ranger. The military should be held somewhat accountable.
    • reply
      by noway jose on Jan 2, 2012 at 03:51 PM in reply to
      Bull! He was a coward and nothing but. Your prayers are as worthless as he was.
      • reply
        by Anonymous on Jan 2, 2012 at 07:08 PM in reply to noway jose
        God forbid you should ever have an emotional or mental illness, "noway jose". You wouldn't want to be judged as harshly. How worthless are you for things you can't control in your life? Would you like a fresh bucket of rocks for that glass house?
        • reply
          by jose on Jan 3, 2012 at 02:51 AM in reply to
          Well Anonymous, I'm sure Ranger Anderson's husband, two daughters, family, friends and co-workers would be so magnanimous toward this coward. Your god might love him but I don't.
    • reply
      by I Fought the Law on Jan 3, 2012 at 03:29 AM in reply to
      All wars seem senseless until you look at each one a bit closer. The US has never gone to war just for the heck of it or to bully another country.....it's always been to protect our freedom or the rights of others.
      • reply
        by Bud on Jan 3, 2012 at 04:31 AM in reply to I Fought the Law
        Wrong. ALL wars are economic in nature. They can be diguised as religious or they can scare people into believing their freedom is at risk but it always boils down to gaining economic advantage. I learned this as a Marine in Quantico Va. during the Reagan administration. You can dispute this all you want but that's what Marine officers are taught and it's just as true today as it was then.
      • reply
        by reality check on Jan 3, 2012 at 05:16 AM in reply to I Fought the Law
        This is the wrong article to discuss this topic. But you need to be reminded of the genocide of Native Americans, the Mexican War to expand our boundaries, numerous military actions in the Caribbean and Central America in the interest of big business, Vietnam (why?), Granada for Reagan's political interest, Kuwait for big oil, Iraq for Bush II's political interest and because he didn't like Saddam, and on and on. And if we go to war to protect the rights of others we should be engaged in dozens of wars in Africa, Asia, and Latin America right now. My apologies for posting in this article but I just had to say.
        • reply
          by Anonymous on Jan 3, 2012 at 05:37 AM in reply to reality check
          I'll still disagree and stand by my thoughts. The Native Americans and Mexican wars was not a war but disputes over territorial rights.....call em a war if you want but it was part of establishing America. All the others true wars mentioned was even to protect our rights or another country's rights.

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