MOUNT RAINIER NATIONAL PARK, Wash. — 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 chest-deep snow.
A plane searching the remote wilderness for Benjamin Colton Barnes, 24, on Monday discovered his body lying face down on the mountain hours from where authorities could get to him.
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 shot ranger Margaret Anderson later Sunday.
SWAT teams more used to urban standoffs trekked deep into the backcountry, unfamiliar territory for them.
“We have SWAT team members with snowshoes on the side of a mountain,” Pierce County Sheriff’s spokesman Ed Troyer said. “This has never happened before.”
Immediately after Sunday’s shooting, police cleared out the park of visitors and mounted a manhunt.
Fear that tourists could be caught in the crossfire in a shootout with Barnes, who had survivalist training, prompted officials to hold more than a 100 people at the visitors’ center before evacuating them in the middle of the night.
Barnes, who was believed to be carrying a cache of weapons, 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 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 large weapons.
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.
Late Sunday police said Barnes was a suspect in another shooting incident.