US & Canada

Mount Rainier ranger shooting: Iraq veteran found dead

Undated handout photo of Benjamin Colton Barnes
Image caption Benjamin Barnes had been wanted for questioning before the manhunt began

The body of an Iraq war veteran wanted over the killing of a park ranger in Washington state has been found, officials have said.

Officials found the suspected gunman, Benjamin Colton Barnes, in Mount Rainier National Park.

The park has been closed since Margaret Anderson, 34, was shot dead while trying to stop a vehicle on Sunday morning.

Barnes, 24, had also been linked to an earlier shooting at a New Year's party.

The body of Barnes, reported to have been suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, was found face down in the snow.

Mount Rainier National Park Chief Ranger Chuck Young said that they were seeking to establish the exact cause of death.

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

Police said they had also recovered his vehicle, which had weapons, body armour and survivalist gear inside.

'Argument over weapon'

The gunman sped past a park checkpoint that was monitoring vehicles for tyre chains, sometimes required in snowy conditions.

As one ranger gave chase, mother-of-two Mrs Anderson blocked the road with her vehicle to stop the driver.

Both of them were fired on, but only Mrs Anderson, who was married to another ranger, was hit.

Image caption Margaret Anderson was married with two young children

Response teams could not reach the wounded officer for nearly an hour-and-a-half because the gunman continued to shoot, the Seattle Times newspaper quotes officials as saying.

Police said Mr Barnes was also wanted for questioning over an early-morning shooting at a party in Skyway, just south of Seattle, which left four people injured, two critically.

Witnesses said a number of revellers at the gathering had been armed and that gunfire broke out following an argument over a weapon.

The national park shooting happened as hikers and climbers enjoyed the wooded trails and views of the 14,410 ft (4,392m) Mount Rainier on an unseasonably mild New Year's holiday.

The park was immediately closed, and about 125 visitors were moved into a visitors' centre before being evacuated under cover of darkness on Monday morning.

'Angry and depressed'

An aircraft fitted with heat-sensing technology helped to search for the suspect from the air, while 150 officers combed the park's grounds.

Image caption The deadly shooting at Mount Rainier was the first in the national park's history

Mr Troyer described the situation as "very... dangerous", with teams of tactical responders pursuing the gunman's tracks in the snow.

He added that the gunman had run through creeks, which had made it harder to follow his tracks.

The gunman is said to have been possibly suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder following his deployments to Iraq in 2007-08, according to an affidavit submitted by the mother of his child.

She sought a temporary restraining order against Mr Barnes during a custody dispute in July 2011.

Barnes got easily irritated, angry and depressed, she added, and kept a variety of weapons in his home.

Park superintendent Randy King said of Mrs Anderson's death: "It's just a huge tragedy - for the family, the park and the park service."

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