2012-01-02 / World

Mt. Rainier ranger shot to death

BY MIKE BAKER The Associated Press

MOUNT RAINIER NATIONAL PARK, Wash.

Tactical teams searched Mount Rainier National Park’s snowy terrain for an armed gunman suspected of killing a park ranger. Other officers used the cover of darkness early today to evacuate dozens of tourists who had been kept for their safety at a visitors center.

About 150 officers converged on the mountain park after ranger Margaret Anderson was shot to death Sunday morning, and searchers used an aircraft with heat-sensing capabilities to hunt from the skies.

Authorities believe the gunman was still in the woods, with weapons.

Pierce County Sheriff ’s spokesman Ed Troyer said that Benjamin Colton Barnes, a 24-year-old believed to have survivalist skills, was a “strong person of interest” in the slaying.

“We do have a very hot and dangerous situation,” Troyer said.

Safety concerns prompted authorities to keep about 125 tourists quarantined at a visitors center as the manhunt unfolded.

But early this morning, officers began escorting them in their cars out of the park.

Crews had initially planned to keep everyone in a basement with guards. But Troyer said it was determined to be “ better to do it ( evacuate) under the cover of darkness than daylight.”

All the visitors were expected to be out by 4 a.m.

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