For the family of Margaret Anderson, the new year got off to a tragic and violent start. Anderson, a 34-year-old park ranger working at Mount Rainer National Park, was murdered on Sunday. The violence began at around 10:30 a.m. after a ranger attempted to make a routine traffic stop. When the driver of the vehicle refused to pull over, the ranger called for assistance, and Margaret Anderson responded, setting up her patrol car as a road block. When the driver arrived at the spot Anderson had blocked, he got out of the car and shot at Anderson and the other ranger in pursuit of him. Only Anderson was hit—sadly she was killed before she could even get out of her car.
The suspect fled into the massive, snowy park that sits about 50 miles outside of Seattle. The park was shutdown immediately and most of the visitors were evacuated. The shooter is thought to still be in the park, and a manhunt is now underway. Police believe they're searching for 24-year-old Benjamin Barnes, an Iraq War veteran who is thought to have "survivalist skills" and be heavily armed. He is also wanted in connection with another shooting in Seattle on Sunday that injured four people. Let's hope they can find him before he's able to hurt anyone else.
Margaret Anderson's husband Eric is also a park ranger and was working in another part of the park at the time of the shooting. Her father, Rev. Paul Kritsch, said the couple "had been looking for that for a long time, to be in the same park," and had finally achieved it. They are the parents to two young daughters, ages three and one. Anderson was a much loved colleague and member of her community. She had been at the park for four years. Mount Rainier National Park spokeswoman Lee Taylor said of her, "[She] was on the job not for money or for glory, but out of a love for wild places and the national parks." While it's a definitely a horrible tragedy, at least she died doing something that she loved.
UPDATE: Police have found a body in the park, and they say there is "a strong probability" it is the suspect they were searching for. They are, however, waiting for a positive ID on the body before they officially confirm Barnes's death.