Update, 2:38 p.m.: 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, according to an Associated Press report.
Benjamin Colton Barnes, 24, apparently died after trudging into chest-deep snow while trying to elude snow-shoe wearing SWAT team members and other authorities who were on his trail.
Barnes reportedly fled to the remote park after an earlier shooting that wounded four near Seattle. Washington State Patrol spokesman Guy Gill said a body believed to be that of 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 after the slaying Sunday of ranger Margaret Anderson. The park remained closed for a second day Monday.
Original post: Gunmen killed two federal law enforcement officers over the weekend in unrelated incidents, capping a deadly year for federal law enforcement agencies and marking the new year with a grave milestone.
Authorities were still searching Mount Rainier National Park on Monday by foot and air for a gunman suspected of killing National Park Service Ranger Margaret Anderson during a traffic stop Sunday. The park remains closed as the search continues, officials said.
Anderson was the first female park ranger killed in the line of duty in the agency’s history, the Park Service said Monday.
Pierce County, Wash., sheriff’s spokesman Ed Troyer told the Associated Press that Benjamin Colton Barnes, a 24-year-old believed to have survivalist skills, was a “strong person of interest” in the killing.
“We do have a very hot and dangerous situation,” Troyer told the AP on Monday.
The Park Service said that on Sunday morning, a car believed to be driven by Barnes failed to stop at a required tire chain checkpoint. Anderson blocked the road with her vehicle when Barnes’s vehicle failed to stop at the checkpoint. He then allegedly jumped from his car and opened fired, fatally shooting Anderson, the agency said.
Anderson, 34, is survived by her husband, who is also a park ranger, and two young children, NPS said.
Park Service Director Jon Jarvis called her killing “a heartbreaking, senseless tragedy” in a message sent to agency employees Monday.
The Rev. Joe Guttormsun, pastor of New Jerusalem Lutheran Church in Lovettsville in Loudoun County, said that Anderson and her husband, Eric, had become members of the church in 2007. He said the couple lived in Harpers Ferry, W.Va., and that Margaret Anderson had been a ranger at Harpers Ferry National Historic Park, while Eric Anderson worked at Antietam National Battlefield in Sharpsburg, Md.
“They were just a wonderful, wonderful couple,” Guttormsun said.
He said that in 2010, just before the birth of the first of their two daughters, they learned that they would both be assigned to Mount Rainier National Park.
“They were very, very excited,” the pastor said. “They loved the mountains, they loved the woods, they loved to travel.”
Guttormsun said he had lost touch with the couple after their move to Washington.
Anderson’s killing follows the death of U.S. Park Police Sgt. Mike Boehm, who died of a heart attack Dec. 16 after responding to reports of a suspected jumper at the Key Bridge in the District.
“These losses are painful reminders of the risks faced by National Park Service employees every day,” Jarvis said in his message. “Please be careful out there and watch out for each other.”
Before Sunday’s shooting, eight park rangers or Park Police officers had been killed in the line of duty since 1927, according to park service records.
On Saturday, an off-duty special agent for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives was fatally shot on Long Island as he tried to stop a robber who held up a pharmacy.
Senior Special Agent John Capano, 51, an explosives specialist, died of a gunshot wound Saturday afternoon, according to local authorities.
He was picking up cancer medication for his elderly father about 2 p.m. on New Year’s Eve, in the small town of Seaford, N.Y., when he attempted to subdue the gunman, according to local news reports.
Capano’s death means that at least 11 federal law enforcement officers died or were killed while on the job or while responding to criminal acts in 2011, according to preliminary statistics released last week by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.
Nationwide, 173 law enforcement officers were killed in 2011, up 13 percent from the 153 killed in 2010. For the first time in 14 years, more officers died from firearms-related incidents than traffic-related incidents, the group said.
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. last week called the uptick in deaths “a devastating and unacceptable trend” that he blamed on the growing prevalence of illegal gun use.
This post has been updated since it was first published.
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