Mount Rainier will likely open Saturday to allow time for grieving

Staff writersJanuary 3, 2012 

Mount Rainier National Park will remain closed until Saturday morning to allow workers to grieve the death of ranger Margaret Anderson.

Anderson, a 34-year-old mother of two, was shot Sunday morning by a man who fled to the park after his involvement in another shooting in Skyway near Renton.

“Some (park employees) are very traumatized,” park spokeswoman Lee Taylor said. “We do not want to put them into a situation that causes further stress.”

As local and federal law enforcement officers continued to investigate Tuesday, the Pierce County medical examiner’s office determined the cause of death for Anderson and her shooter. Anderson was killed by multiple gunshots to her head and torso, based on the autopsy.

The shooter, Benjamin C. Barnes, drowned in Paradise Creek where his body was discovered Monday morning. Barnes, who was discovered wearing a T-shirt, jeans and one shoe, was also suffering from hypothermia, according to Pierce County’s chief medical examiner Dr. Thomas Clark.

Also Tuesday, three specially trained National Park Service teams arrived at the park to support the 125 employees.

The five-person Critical Incident Stress Management Team addressed the entire staff Tuesday morning and will also conduct one-on-one counseling. An 11-member law enforcement team will man the entrances to the park. And another nine-member team will help handle other park needs including media relations.

“A lot of people here are shaken by this,” Bacher said.

This is the first park closure since flooding in 2006.

SKYWAY INCIDENT

King County sheriff’s investigators were working with his family to get Barnes to turn himself in in connection the Skyway shooting early Sunday that left four injured.

According to a King County Sheriff’s Office news release, nine people were hanging out inside a home in the 6200 block of South 117th Place on New Year’s Eve.

“During the evening, there was a ‘show and tell’ of guns, and at midnight, at least two people fired multiple rounds into the air,” the news release states.

Nearly three hours later, one of the men at the party asked to see a gun that belonged to another person.

The man looked at the gun, then refused to give it back when asked, the press release states. “A fight ensued and, at one point, at least two people pulled guns and a shootout ensued,” the news release states.

Four people were injured. Witnesses said Barnes was one of the gunmen who fired. Detectives have not talked to the victims. “It is unclear at this point who shot first and who was shot by whom,” the press release states. Of the four shooting victims, two remain in critical condition. The other two are in stable condition.

Barnes arrived at Mount Rainier National Park before 10 a.m. on New Year’s Day and refused to stop at a tire chain checkpoint on the road to Paradise.

Ranger Dan Camiccia, who was manning the checkpoint, gave chase and radioed for backup. Anderson responded and set up a roadblock below Paradise, where Barnes jumped from his car and shot Anderson.

After 90 minutes of shooting at rangers and law enforcement officers, Barnes ran into the woods. A 200-person manhunt ended the next morning when Barnes’ body was discovered partially submerged in Paradise Creek.

ELIGIBLE FOR COUNSELING

Barnes, who listed his hometown as Temecula, Calif., attended a community day school for expelled and troubled students when he was teen, according to The (Riverside, Calif.) Press-Enterprise. He was 19 when he joined the Army in February 2007.

Within the year he was deployed to Iraq as part of Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s 4th Brigade. His deployment lasted from November 2007-June 2008, according to Army records.

His brigade saw heavy fighting, but it’s not clear from Army records whether Barnes saw combat.

Barnes was a signal systems specialist, a job that called on him to maintain and repair communications equipment such as radios.

Court records show Barnes got in trouble with the law soon after his return. He was arrested on suspicion of driving while under the influence of alcohol in January 2009 and March 2009. The Army released him with a discharge for misconduct by September 2009.

The conditions of his discharge kept him eligible for Veterans Administration benefits, including counseling. The VA could not release specific information about whether Barnes accessed that care because his medical records are protected under privacy laws.

Court records show that Barnes had a difficult time making ends meet after he was discharged. Pierce County court records show he was in collections for an unpaid credit card, and he would not tell the mother of his daughter where he was living during their child custody dispute last year.

Barnes insisted in a May 2011 court filing that he cared for his daughter. He wanted joint custody of the child.

“I have (the child’s) best interest at heart,” he wrote. “I insure a structured and stable, happy, clean and safe home for the (the child) with a parent who loves her.”

The child’s mother, Nicole Santos, wrote Barnes’ care for their daughter was anything but “structured and stable.” She depicted him as impatient, moody and controlling, and she suggested he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

REMEMBERING ANDERSON

The park service’s incident management team was in contact with Anderson’s family Tuesday, Taylor said. The team is working with the family to determine how and when memorial services will be held.

“Details will be announced today at the earliest,” Taylor said.

Park officials anticipate visitors bringing flowers and other items to the park when it reopens Saturday morning. They will likely set up an area for those items in Longmire, Taylor said.

Craig Hill: 253-597-8497
craig.hill@thenewstribune.com
blog.thenewstribune.com/adventure

Staff writer Stacia Glenn contributed to this report.

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