(MOUNT RAINIER NATIONAL PARK, Wash.) — Park rangers and FBI agents at Mount Rainier National Park in Washington State evacuated 125 campers who were held overnight Sunday during the search for a gunman suspected of killing a park ranger.
The campers were gathered in a visitor’s center at the park after the shooting death of ranger Margaret Anderson, 34, in the park Sunday morning. Police say that military veteran Benjamin Colton Barnes, 24, is a “strong person of interest” in the shooting and is being sought by police in the park.
Barnes, who has a history of criminal violence, is suspected of shooting four other people before entering the park Sunday and speeding past a check point. Anderson and another ranger blocked the road in front of Barnes, who allegedly fired the shots that killed Anderson, according to Pierce County Sheriff spokesman Ed Troyer.
Anderson was a married mother of two daughters, ages 2 and 4.
Police found Barnes’ vehicle, which had weapons and body armor inside, Troyer told ABC News affiliate KOMO.
The visitors were escorted by police to the exit of the park under the cover of darkness around 4 a.m. Monday morning. They spent the night in the visitor’s center, which had food and water but no cots, pillows or sleeping bags. They were taken to a fire house outside of the park upon their evacuation.
Police have been searching the snowy park since early Sunday, using infrared radar, aircraft and ground units to try and track the suspect. Lee Taylor, a spokeswoman for the park, said 111 law enforcement officers from the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, Washington State Patrol, FBI, and Pierce and Louis counties are assisting in the search.
Barnes is also a suspect in the early Sunday morning shooting of four people at a house party in Skyway, Wash., police said. Two people were critically injured in the shooting.
Barnes has a violent past and previously threatened the mother of his child with guns during a bitter custody battle, according to court documents obtained by ABC News. Police also released photos showing him with weapons and tattoos reading “pride, envy, gluttony and lust.”
Barnes has four years of military service, according to police, and is considered a survivalist with outdoor skills. Police told KOMO that Barnes’ tracks appear to go into creeks and other waterways in the park, making it more difficult for crews to track him; a purposeful, tactical move, Pierce County’s Troyer said.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Ralph Ellis, Ben Wedeman and Michael Pearson, CNN
Taylor Corbett, KXXV