Special Reports

Slain Rainier ranger's family shares gratitude in statement

As Mount Rainier National Park officials continued Thursday to make plans to memorialize Margaret Anderson, the family of the slain law enforcement ranger issued its first public statement.

Anderson was shot and killed Sunday morning by Benjamin C. Barnes, an Iraq War veteran who then fled into the forest. Barnes was found drowned in a creek after a daylong manhunt.

A public memorial for Anderson is set for 1 p.m. Tuesday at Pacific Lutheran University’s Olsen Auditorium in Parkland.

Anderson’s husband, Eric, also is a law enforcement ranger at the park. He was escorted home to his 3- and 1-year-old daughters moments after park superintendent Randy King informed him of his wife’s death.

Anderson has not spoken publicly, but his family issued the statement via the park.

“The husband, daughters, and family of Margaret Kritsch Anderson, the fallen Law Enforcement Ranger slain in the line of duty on January 1, 2012 at Mount Rainier National Park, extend their deepest gratitude and profound appreciation for all the expressions of sympathy, cards, meals and prayers upon the loss of our beloved wife, mother, daughter, sister, and friend. We appreciate the opportunity to grieve in private.”

A law enforcement officer has been stationed at the family’s home since Sunday and will stay at least until Tuesday’s service.

The intent is to protect the family’s privacy and “to show respect,” said park ranger Fawn Bauer. A law enforcement officer or park service official has guarded her body since she was recovered from the scene of the shooting. They will continue to do so until she is interred, as is customary for law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty.

Park spokesman Kevin Bacher said a team of park service specialists from around the country is at the park helping to plan the memorial service and making sure Anderson’s family’s wishes for the ceremony are met.

“It takes an immense amount of planning,” Bacher said. “There is so much that goes into it. Thank God for this team.”

The park has been closed since Sunday and will reopen Saturday. Park officials expect a large number of visitors will want to leave remembrances for Anderson.

The park will designate two locations where visitors can do so, Bacher said.

People can leave items at a memorial being set up on the porch of the Wilderness Information Center at Longmire and inside the Henry M. Jackson Memorial Visitor Center at Paradise. At the visitor center, there will be a notebook in which people may write messages.

Park officials are asking visitors not to leave items at the Nisqually entrance for safety and traffic-flow reasons.

The park is scheduled to reopen at 8 a.m. Saturday. The gate at Longmire will open when crews have the road to Paradise cleared of any new snow. The snow-play area at Paradise will remain closed Saturday because of short staffing.

Many of the rangers staffing the park Saturday will be from other areas – as far away as Georgia – to give Rainier rangers time to grieve.

An officer likely will be stationed at Barn Flats, the site of the shooting, to keep traffic moving.

Craig Hill: 253-307-5373